If you have time to read the 148 pages of the new Bozeman Community Plan, you can find it here. Otherwise, here are the key takeaways!
This is a policy document that is intended to help guide the growth and development of Bozeman. The main focus is on land use and it will be used by the city to assist future development decisions. Bozeman has had five community plans since 1958 and this one will be the most recent since 2009. The time frame for this new plan is 20 years and will take us to 2040. The boundaries for the growth plan are approximately 70 square miles and include a mix of city and county areas. Around 92% of the parcels in the 49 square miles outside of the city limits are smaller than 20 acres. This is the minimum area the city generally considers eligible to be an agricultural property.
Photo credit - City of Bozeman
The city has been faced with the question of if they should limit development. They could stop acquiring water rights, stop expanding water and sewer and try to limit growth through regulations. This would obviously result in fewer homes and developments. The problem with this approach, however, it would not stop people from moving here so the character of our community would still change. The city took a look at other cities that have tried to constrain growth through these avenues and they found the outcome was still growth. The growth went outside of city limits, drove up home prices and rentals, and increased commute times. Since growth is inevitable, Bozeman wants to find a way to approach growth in a positive way. They want to have regulations in place to keep the growth visually appealing and functional. To provide parks, trails, and open space. They want to work with the county to encourage annexation and development within city limits because that is more land efficient than areas that aren't annexed. They want to continue to focus on urban-intensity development because it is more land efficient than rural and suburban development.
Important principles the city considered when developing the community plan were the health and well-being of the public. Having a variety of housing and employment opportunities and transportation infrastructures. Infill development and redevelopment should be a priority while keeping in mind some outward development will be necessary. Housing affordability is a critical issue in Bozeman and has been a concern since the 70's. According to a housing needs assessment in Bozeman between 5,400-6,400 housing units are needed by 2025. The plan recognizes that we need to ensure community housing serves the full range of incomes. Zoning plans will support housing regulations for a range of housing types within a given neighborhood.
1) Remain Resilient
Communities, especially ones experiencing growth, are always changing. Bozeman wants to stay resilient so it can positively adapt to the changes we are seeing and maintain the quality of life here.
2) Encourage Unique Neighborhoods
Bozeman has a mix of traditional and diverse neighborhoods. We see this throughout our town based a lot on different areas being developed at various periods of time. The city wants to encourage a mix of housing and needed services within close proximity to one another to promote short commutes to jobs, schools, and entertainment. The city plans to achieve this by increasing required minimum densities in residential districts, promoting ADU's (additional dwelling units), and housing diversity, and encouraging major employers to provide workforce housing. They also hope to encourage affordable housing throughout the city, discourage private covenants that restrict housing diversity, and support small lot sizes and floor plans for compact neighborhoods. Keeping connectivity between parks, trails, and neighborhoods is also a priority.
3) Focus on Downtown and Complimentary Districts
The city will prioritize infill to promote a walkable community and prevent sprawl. By creating districts they envision pocket neighborhoods, smaller housing, and urban agriculture. In the community plan the districts are described as Baxter/Cattail, Cottonwood, Fowler, N 19th, Midtown, Story Mill, downtown, and MSU. Within these districts, the city will identify underutilized and undeveloped sites for possible development, promote mixed-use developments, prioritize open space, and support higher-density developments along the main corridors.
4) Allow Development to be Influenced by Our Natural Environment
Because Bozeman is surrounded by mountains, rivers, and open space, we know the value of outdoor recreation and the importance of protecting it as we grow. The health of our water systems and air quality will be taken into consideration as we see our population grow. To implement this the city will prioritize the acquisition of parks, connecting trails, addressing climate changes in the city's plans, preserving wildlife habitats and watersheds as well as focusing on water conservation.
5) Prioritize Accessibility
Effective transportation systems will become more essential in Bozeman as we grow. It helps ease traffic congestion, noise, and pollution. By prioritizing mixed-use land permits the city can enable the development of housing, jobs, and services close to each other. Then develop safe, connected transportation for pedestrians, bikes, and public transit. Also included in this is updating street policy for pedestrian safety and working with schools for safe routes and crossings.
6) Create an Innovative and Entrepreneurial Economy
Bozeman has a diverse mix of businesses and industries. This plan hopes to promote the continued development of our economic center by investing in infrastructure projects to strengthen businesses and education. There are goals to facilitate live/work opportunities to support small, local businesses and make sure the future land use map has areas for diverse users.
7) Encourage Regional Coordination
Bozeman has a solid working relationship with Gallatin County and it is essential that this remains as we grow. They are also focusing on the Triangle Community Plan that includes Bozeman, Gallatin County, and Belgrade. This was developed so the three entities could coordinate land use and overlapping jurisdiction to work on infill development, transportation systems, and opportunities for agriculture, industry, and business. They want to accomplish this through coordination to promote consistency throughout the area. The Triangle Community Plan enables both Belgrade and Bozeman to work with the county regarding annexation and development patterns that are adjacent to the cities. They want to keep rural areas rural and maintain a clear edge to development as we expand.
One of the main building blocks of the Bozeman Community Plan is the future land use map. A big part of Bozeman's character comes from our natural surroundings and different landmarks throughout town. The goal is to remain unique and not turn into "Anywhere USA". The future land use map will shape how the land is used to include urban edges, skylines, centers of employment, pedestrian-friendly areas, and access to nature. The city has utilized 10 land use categories to guide future development. They are urban neighborhoods, residential mixed-use, community commercial mixed-use, traditional core downtown, regional commercial & services, maker space mixed-use, industrial, parks & open land, public institutions, and areas of no city services.
The Bozeman Community Plan will be monitored to see how well it is working to meet the objectives of the city. It will be reviewed annually and updated as each piece works towards its goals. It is adaptable and will be updated when necessary. If current trends continue in Gallatin County we will see it grow by nearly 55,000 through 2045, with half of that growth likely to occur in the city of Bozeman. With this type of growth, we understand the necessity of a plan moving forward with the city.
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