City Hall File

The sun shines on Bozeman City Hall in this file photo.

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Bozeman city commissioners rejected a proposal for a controversial development in northeast Bozeman on Tuesday.

City commissioners brought up concerns about plans to only provide one means of public access to the Bridger Meadows development and the developer’s request to reduce the required setback, or buffer, from nearby watercourses. They voted down the planned unit development for the project 4-1.

The project, which proposed 16 homes, was requesting six relaxations from city code including the watercourse setbacks and only having one public access point. The other four were to allow for a longer-than-average block length and a narrower street width, a cul-de-sac and only having a sidewalk on one side of the street.

City commissioners voted in 2018 to annex the roughly 12-acre property into the city and zoned it for residential development. The developers were proposing to develop just under 40% of the land on the property, with 7.15 acres of it planned to be a wildlife refuge and wetland preservation site.

City Manager Jeff Mihelich said though some of the requested relaxations should only be considered in rare circumstances, the city feels they make sense in this case.

The development would not be possible without the requested relaxations, Mihelich said.

“It has, pretty significant wetland on the side, and also has limited access, so the relaxations ... are necessary in this case, to protect the wetland, to provide greater access to the site, block length and so on, or else candidly, the property would be more or less un-developable,” Mihelich said. “Without the relaxations we really think this property would be planned in a less effective way and certainly with less home.”

The plans were met with pushback from some nearby residents, several of whom who spoke Tuesday. Some mentioned concerns about the impact development would have on their homes and groundwater in the area. Others cited concerns about the access road going near their homes.

Developer Thomas Murphy said they requested some of the relaxations with the goal of protecting wetlands on the property.

Without the relaxations, Murphy said the other option would be to fill in some of the wetlands and move them elsewhere.

Murphy said they feel the plan “provides the optimum balance between the goal of providing much needed infill housing, and protecting our precious natural resources.”

Murphy said Wednesday morning he has no firm plans yet for a path forward for the property.

Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham proposed approving the PUD with a new condition that any wetland setback be no less than 35 feet. Cunningham said he felt several of the other requested relaxations were good compromises, but that the city was compromising too far with the wetland setback.

The developers said they felt reducing the setback was a better option than filling some of the wetlands and moving them somewhere else.

“The one failing in this is that it compromises a bit too far I believe in achieving the main goal, which is the preservation of sensitive lands while still having development,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham was the only commissioner to vote for the motion for the planned unit development.

Other commissioners said they were concerned by the requested relaxation to only have one access to the development and other public safety concerns.

Commissioners unanimously voted against the preliminary plat for the project, citing the rejected planned unit development.

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

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