Belgrade, Montana recently released a new growth policy. It was last revised in 2006 and with the population of Belgrade expected to grow by 5,000 over the next ten years, it was time to take in community input and revise the plan to accommodate the growth. The plan is very detailed with 82 pages of important information which can be read here. Or, read below for the key takeaways.
Through online surveys and community outreach, the city of Belgrade identified what residents hoped for the city's future. The top answers were affordable single-family homes, more shops and restaurants downtown, biking and walking trails throughout town to connect parks, schools, and neighborhoods, improved traffic flow and independence from Bozeman. Belgrade is a small town with a deep agricultural history and a heritage of strong relationships and resiliency. The growth policy makes it clear that the goal is to keep Belgrade a tight-knit city with gathering places to build a community, raise children and spend retirement years.
Most of Belgrade’s past and current projects have been just outside of city limits. Part of the growth policy is to focus on Belgrade’s downtown to encourage restaurants and shops to open their doors. Right now, many leave Belgrade for work and play which leads to the bedroom community label it gets. Residents want to shed this notion so Belgrade becomes the place where people, live, work and play. They want to create a downtown parking structure, make road improvements and encourage multi-use buildings in the area to keep people living and working in the downtown area.
With the rise of home prices in Bozeman, many look to Belgrade as a more affordable option. While Belgrade’s real estate market has remained strong, it has not seen the high prices of Bozeman. The growth plan wants to make it attainable for people to buy homes and live in Belgrade. They want to target developers that can supply low to moderate housing. The plan includes allowing the development of high quality manufactured housing subdivisions as well as improving existing ones.
The growth policy talks about the future use of land within a 4.5-mile radius of Belgrade. They want to fill in the gaps between current subdivisions and commercial areas instead of expanding out. It will discourage development in unincorporated areas where it doesn’t make sense and to pace growth so development won’t overtake the ability to provide public services. Discouraging fragmented subdivisions and protecting agriculture land. Building dense housing in the right places will be important. As for commercial areas, they want to provide space for retail, light manufacturing and industrial areas while retaining existing businesses.
Currently, there is no parks department in Belgrade. The responsibility is currently under the Belgrade Public Works and is often underfunded. In a town where the school district population triples its municipal population, the need for a strong parks and rec department is necessary. Residents talk about wanting an aquatics center, dog parks, a central park near Jackrabbit Lane, while also upgrading and expanding current parks. Trails for biking and walking are top priorities. Encouraging linear trails to connect residential areas with parks, schools and downtown. Improving pedestrian crossings across the major roads is also in the policy to make a more walkable city.
Belgrade has a history as a railroad hub which has created physical barriers that make it hard for connectivity across town. That along with the growth they are experiencing and residents commuting to Bozeman for work has created major traffic issues. The growth policy takes on this issue with several road improvement plans, expansions and pedestrian crossings throughout Belgrade to improve traffic flow. They are also working with a planning coordination committee, a group from Gallatin County, Bozeman and Belgrade, to work out policies for managing the Frontage Road, 19th, Huffine and Jackrabbit. The goals are to better coordinate services and development across these jurisdictions.
The Belgrade Growth policy hopes to learn from the past and guide the growth in a sustainable way. To keep Belgrade a place where anyone can attain a home, find a job, enjoy recreational activities and be a safe community with good schools.
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