Updated Triangle Plan Screenshot

This screenshot provided by Gallatin County shows the updated boundaries of the Triangle Community Plan. 

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For more than two years, officials from Gallatin County and the cities of Belgrade and Bozeman have worked to define goals for a swath of land where their jurisdiction overlaps.

As that work wraps up, some Bozeman city commissioners have said they’re concerned that edits by fellow elected officials could go too far to hold onto consensus.

The Triangle Community Plan outlines priorities for the land between Bozeman, Four Corners and Belgrade as the area experiences growth. The intention is to align the governments’ big picture goals as the area develops.

This month, Bozeman commissioners got their first chance to offer feedback on the draft document, released in October.

During a Feb. 10 meeting, commissioners voted on proposed changes. Most advocated for more language on sustainability and affordable housing. Throughout the meeting, there was a push and pull between commissioners who wanted to find a place for Bozeman’s top priorities and those worried about upsetting the other governments involved.

Mayor Chris Mehl, who’s been on the planning coordinating committee that shaped the draft, said several times he’s afraid commissioners suggested “Bozeman language” for a joint-government plan.

“We made a great step forward, and I don’t want to jeopardize that by Bomanizing it so much that they leave the table,” said Mehl, adding he’ll take the suggestions back to the committee. “We can certainly see what they say.”

Deputy Mayor Cyndy Andrus and Commissioner Terry Cunningham were the only commissioners that proposed changes for the document.

Andrus said she looked at the plan through “the lens of climate sustainability.” Among other changes, she suggested the governments aim to provide a multi-model transportation system and encourage “new thinking and practices.”

Andrus said it will be up to the planning committee to decide if her suggestions stick.

“Maybe they’re new ideas; maybe there’s not funding to support them at this time,” she said. “But I think they are at least worth talking about and questioning and having a forward discussion about.”

Cunningham said the city should add “resilience and sustainability” to the document’s guiding values.

He also added language that would call on the three governments to participate in each other’s major planning documents including an affordable housing plan and needs assessments.

Cunningham said the city’s suggestions are part of the consensus process.

“If some of these suggestions don’t make it and come back to us as ‘we don’t believe in that’ then that’s the input that we’re looking for,” he said. “I think it is responsible on our part to suggest things that are of high value to the city and ensure that’s represented.”

Commissioner I-Ho Pomeroy said she liked many of the ideas proposed and voted to support most of them. But she added she wants to make sure the document has a chance to get implemented.

Commissioner Micheal Wallner cast the most votes against changes during the meeting. He warned that the city had to be careful to remember Bozeman is just a piece of the plan.

“I don’t want to amend this so badly that we push the other key stakeholders away from the table, and I feel like that might be the direction we’re headed at this point.”

The draft document is 27 pages. It touches on water quality, preserving agricultural land and the environment. It also describes the importance of building in a way where people can live close to schools and work and rely on essential infrastructure like a functioning road system.

Each government’s elected bodies involved will ultimately have to vote to stick to that plan. Bozeman commissioners aren’t the only ones weighing in.

Belgrade Planning Director Jason Karp said Tuesday the city council has yet to offer feedback on the draft. He said city staff planned to remind elected leaders during their regular Tuesday meeting this week to offer any edits, though he added he wasn’t sure they would have any.

He said he hoped each government had trust in the representatives on the planning coordinating committee.

“It’s really hard when you have three separate gov bodies. If they all want to get in there and micromanage those things, it gets really unwieldy,” Karp said. “If we had a lot of major edits, that could potentially delay things though I’m not anticipating that there are going to be any deal breakers.”

Gallatin County commissioners also worked through the draft this month. Sean O’Callaghan, county planning director, said commissioners offered up two “small” edits to the document.

One of those edits included broadening language to show the county’s zoning regulations don’t include affordable housing provisions.

He said throughout the planning committee work, the underlying theme of the planning committee work was balancing the three governments’ interests. He said this type of document is rare for Montana.

“This is a big step for us locally,” he said. “Though it’s still a draft, I think it has shaped up to be a pretty meaningful document. I hope it serves all three jurisdictions well.”

The planning coordinating committee is due to meet again in early March.

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Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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