Consultants to evaluate Bozeman’s historic preservation regulations
Do Bozeman’s historic preservation rules hinder new development in the city’s core? Do they do enough to balance preservation with other priorities, like infill development, affordability and property rights?
Those are among the questions on the agenda as a consulting firm embarks on a review of the city’s neighborhood conservation overlay district, the zoning mechanism that gives Bozeman’s older sections the bulk of their codified protection.
And the public will have a chance to weigh in on the matter during a meeting this week, starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall.
The conservation overlay, bordered by the Gallagator Trail on the southeast and stretching as far west as 11th Avenue and as far north as the Gallatin County Fairgrounds, encompasses more than 3,000 properties in central Bozeman. As city historic preservation officer Courtney Kramer described it, the district functions essentially as a “city-run homeowners’ association.”
Kramer said it was established in 1991 following public outcry over a project where a developer demolished three older homes to build the now-closed Pizza Hut building on Babcock Street.
History in the making
Under the overlay requirements, most projects altering a property’s exterior appearance require city planning staff to review the proposed project for its compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood’s historic character. Kramer said the planning office reviews as many as 300 applications a year.
“It’s a tremendous investment in community resources,” she said. For example, Kramer noted, she spent about 70 hours reviewing a single recent proposal by local developer Mike Delaney, which sought approval to demolish a historic house adjacent to his home.
While the overlay district has done a good job of preserving historic buildings, she said, it’s less clear what impact it’s having on the city’s efforts to promote affordability, density and sustainable construction.
The study, to be conducted by the KLJ engineering firm’s Bozeman office, is set to examine the overlay district’s impact on development and provide recommendations about whether portions of the code should be revised, according to a scope of services document.