Big Sky has finished its first-ever growth plan, which identifies projects residents would like the town to complete over the next decade.

Through surveys, interviews and meetings, residents indicated their top priorities are affordable housing, conservation, recreation and local governance. The 50-page plan, developed by the Logan Simpson consulting firm, came out this week and details projects that address each of these four areas.

To increase affordable housing, residents suggested several strategies including employer-assisted housing, a requirement that commercial developers include housing as part of their building plans and incentives for homeowners to convert short-term rental properties to long-term rentals.

Priorities for conservation include preserving open space, protecting the Gallatin River and addressing climate change.

Residents also expressed a desire for more indoor recreation opportunities. The Big Sky Community Organization has raised $19.9 million for a community center that will include a fitness area, classrooms, a music pavilion and an ice rink. The center is scheduled to open in summer 2021. In addition, residents would like an indoor pool and more space for public gatherings.

To improve recreation, residents want to expand parks and trails, maintain access to public lands and increase pedestrian and bicycle safety.

Because Big Sky is unincorporated, residents said they often don’t know where to go for certain services, who to ask questions of and how to know what’s happening in the town. The plan suggests surveying residents about the possible forms local government could take, studying each option’s costs and benefits and creating a town-wide newsletter to keep people informed.

Other projects residents would like to see in the next 10 years include upgrading the water and sewer system, expanding public transportation, promoting local small businesses, investing in public spaces and developing an evacuation route through Ennis because the only way in and out of Big Sky is via U.S. 191.

Money for these initiatives is expected to come from a combination of property taxes, private donations, state and federal grants and the resort tax, which generates about $8 million annually.

The Big Sky Resort Tax Board, which distributes the revenue from the town’s 3% sales tax, will use the plan during its annual appropriations process to determine which projects and programs to fund, said Daniel Bierschwale, district manager for the resort tax.

Big Sky also hopes Madison and Gallatin counties, local tax districts, nonprofit organizations and businesses will incorporate the document into their long-term planning efforts.

A draft of the plan is available at ourbigskymt.com and will be discussed at a resort tax board meeting on Wednesday.

Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.

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