A development in northeast Bozeman that has been the subject of heated criticism from nearby residents passed a major hurdle Tuesday as city commissioners voted to approve its annexation and zoning proposal.
Developer Andy Holloran with HomeBase Partners is proposing to bring mixed-use and residential buildings in a few different zoning designations on 25 acres of land at the northeast corner of Bridger Drive and Story Mill Road.
Commissioners by a vote of 4-0 approved the annexation agreement with an amendment and several conditions that will restrict the scale of the development. Commissioner Christopher Coburn was absent from the meeting.
Though many nearby residents agreed that the property makes sense for development, many were also critical of the proposed density and the impact it might have on their neighborhoods and traffic in the area.
Tuesday’s meeting was a continuation of a previous meeting from December, which went over five hours before Mayor Cyndy Andrus decided to delay the rest of the proceedings.
Commissioners voted to approve 5 acres of R-5, residential mixed-use high density zoning, 1.62 acres of REMU, residential emphasis mixed use zoning and about 10 acres each of R-3, medium density residential zoning and B-2M, community commercial mixed use zoning.
Since the proposal first hit the city dockets in August, a group of nearby residents have worked to oppose it, showing up in force during public meetings and even, according to Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham, putting up signs near his house on the other side of the city encouraging a vote against the proposal.
Cunningham and other commissioners acknowledged neighbors’ concerns during Tuesday’s meeting, as did Holloran, who proposed additional conditions to the annexation agreement to address concerns about development height.
The conditions include a 100-foot buffer along Boylan Road, in which development would be limited to residential units with a height limit similar to that in the R-3 zoning, and a limit within the 10 acres of B-2M zoning that no building will have a footprint of greater than 25,000 square feet.
At the first commission meeting on the development in December, Holloran proposed two other conditions to annexation: A requirement that 60 units of income-restricted, workforce housing be provided within the development and that no building within the R-5 zoning be higher than 50 feet or four stories.
City Manager Jeff Mihelich said the conditions run with the property and apply to any development that may be proposed on the land in the future.
“We believe these restrictions more than adequately address any other concerns that our neighbors and city staff and city commissioners may have,” Holloran said Tuesday. “We need to keep in mind that we’re a community of 54,000 people and cannot allow a vocal minority to sway or dictate how we grow as a city just because they may fear change.”
Commissioner Jennifer Madgic proposed an amendment to limit the height in the entire project to the same standard of 50 feet or four stories — Holloran had originally proposed that requirement be added to only a portion of the B-2M zoning, in addition to the five acres of R-5 zoning.
The amendment passed unanimously 4-0.
Mihelich also confirmed that Holloran’s proposal to include 60 workforce housing units is the only time a developer has volunteered to build below-market-rate housing without subsidy since the city’s inclusionary zoning policy was nuked by the state legislature in 2021.
“There is no quid pro quo, and there is no additional city resources or financing of those affordable units at all,” Mihelich said. “And it is the only project that I’m aware of in the city that has proffered that.”
Several commissioners pointed to the conditions during their comments.
“I appreciate everything that’s been offered up by the applicant and, as has been stated, just his listening and really trying to mitigate the concerns of the neighborhood and frankly some of the community as well,” Andrus said. “I think that this is an area that, as we have said, is in transition, and has been ripe to be coming into the community, I think this is a good time for this to be happening.”
During the meeting, commissioners acknowledged the complexity of the development but also noted how it fits with the city’s growth plans.
“I think the area, like so much of Bozeman, is a place in transition,” Madgic said. “We are transitioning to a bigger town, we’re becoming more urban. We have to, if we are going to be responsible, you know, members of our community, we have to accommodate growth within our city limits. Otherwise, we’re promoting sprawl.”