West Main Street Drone File

The sun sets on West Main Street on July 24, 2020.

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The city is seeking public input on the draft community plan that will in part lay the groundwork for how to manage the steep increase in population and housing stock projected over the next two decades.

With an estimated 12,700-plus new residences needed by the year 2045 to accommodate a projected population growth of nearly 27,000 people, according to the draft plan, the Bozeman Community Plan will set the city’s priorities for land use, zoning and infrastructure.

“Our plans do make the assumption that we will continue to grow,” said Tom Rogers, city planning division senior planner Wednesday during the first of three public meetings on the draft proposal planned for September. “Our community is changing, this plan will help manage and accept that change through time.”

City staff went over the text of the plan during Wednesday’s meeting and took questions from attendees. A meeting next Wednesday will focus on the future land use map, and a meeting the week after is dedicated to the overall plan and a question and answer portion.

The plan is almost done after two years of work. It will replace the current community plan, which was passed in 2009. Bozeman is required under state law to reassess its community plan every five years, Rogers said after Wednesday’s meeting.

The plan addresses growth both inside city limits and in the land surrounding Bozeman, with the entire “planning area” totaling over 70 square miles. It lays out seven themes, which include making the city more resilient to changing circumstances, prioritizing accessibility and mobility, bolstering the downtown and other commercial districts and protecting and bolstering the natural environment, parks and open lands.

According to an appendix of the draft detailing outreach efforts in the plan’s development, people interviewed for the plan were concerned sprawl, transportation, government transparency and an absence of neighborhood identity would become issues moving forward.

Each theme is split into goals, then objectives that lay out more specific actions the city can take. The plan also includes a future land use map, which sets expectations for how lands will be used.

While past plans have also included future land use maps, Rogers said this draft plan is different in separating the map from the text of the plan. The text of the plan — the themes, goals and objectives — is intended to be for shorter term use than the map.

The future land use map designates some areas for uses that are “wildly different” than the zoning map, Rogers said, and includes potential actions the commissioners could take on rezoning.

Under the implementation section of the plan, the draft lists 13 short-term action items, including reviewing potential “upzoning” to promote housing diversity, increase required minimum densities in residential districts and promote the development of accessory dwelling units.

The second action item suggests potentially evaluating zoning map changes to reduce areas exclusively zoned for single-type housing, identify locations for neighborhood and community commercial nodes early in the development process and to support higher intensity residential districts near schools, services and transportation.

“The plan itself does not change any zoning, zoning is a separate legal process,” said Chris Saunders, the city planning division’s community development manager. “The city generally has in the past allowed private development to bring in proposals for rezoning, (it) has not taken a lot of efforts to initiate zoning directly but they certainly can so that’s an option that will have to be discussed with the city commission.”

Rogers said he is planning to introduce the plan to the city commission at its Oct. 6 meeting, and expects it to be discussed in October and November. The commissioners have the final say on the plan, Rogers said, and the September meetings are intended to get feedback to ensure the plan accurately incorporates the public’s input, and to educate people on the plan.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607

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