Belgrade Downtown

A young boy pauses to look up while riding his bike through downtown Belgrade in this Chronicle file photo.

The population of Belgrade has grown from 7,400 to 9,000 since 2010 and is expected to increase by 5,000 over the next decade.

To plan for this growth, Belgrade has spent the last seven months updating its growth policy and developing a parks and recreation master plan, said planning director Jason Karp.

The Belgrade City Council and Gallatin County Commission received both documents this week and will vote on adopting them in the next few weeks.

The Belgrade Planning Department will use the documents to revise city zoning regulations, to assess whether unzoned areas bordering the city should be zoned and to update the city’s subdivision regulations, Karp said. The planning department also would like to focus on revitalizing downtown Belgrade, as most development in the last decade has occurred outside the city limits.

“As we’ve grown around the city, we don’t want to lose focus on the center and hollow it out,” Karp said.

Based on public input, the growth policy lists possible projects for the next five years, including the construction of a downtown parking structure, creation of affordable housing downtown, development of a pedestrian crossing for Interstate 90 and road improvements to reduce traffic.

The growth policy also includes a detailed map of projected future land uses within a 4.5-mile radius of Belgrade, which the city can provide recommendations on to the county. The map shows much of Belgrade’s planned growth focused on filling in the gaps between existing subdivisions and commercial developments rather than expanding away from the city center.

“I know there have been some infrastructure issues as with any growing town,” said Commissioner Don Seifert. “But I like that the future uses have been well thought out and planned.”

Belgrade has also created its first parks and recreation master plan, which is one of several planning documents included in the growth policy. The parks and recreation plan details ways to improve the city’s recreation opportunities through projects like improving and expanding parks, better connecting existing trails, adding bike paths and building an aquatics center.

Belgrade may ask voters to approve a special parks tax district to pay for these projects. Belgrade doesn’t have a parks department and instead provides parks services through the public works department, which means they are often underfunded, Karp said. Surveys conducted as part of the growth policy process indicate residents support the creation of the tax district.

The update to the Belgrade Growth Policy began in the spring. It was last revised in 2006. Belgrade officials and CTA Architects Engineers, the consultant working on the update, reached out to residents through online and email surveys and public events. They met with a number of local groups, including the Belgrade School District, Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport and the Central Valley Fire District.

They also worked with the Planning Coordination Committee, a group of representatives from Gallatin County, Bozeman and Belgrade who are working on policies to manage the area bordered by the Frontage Road, 19th Avenue, Huffine Land and Jackrabbit Lane. The policies — which will be detailed in the Triangle Community Plan — are aimed at better coordinating services and development across jurisdictions. The Belgrade City Council will likely adopt the Triangle Community Plan as part of its growth policy once the plan is completed in the next few months.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

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