County housing project

The Gallatin County Rest Home can be seen on the far side of a vacant property, also owned by the county, on Oct. 14.

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A plan to build housing on county land in Bozeman cleared its first public hurdle this week.

The effort is still in its early stages, but Gallatin County is looking to bring some housing and potentially child care to land it owns between Durston Road and Oak Street near Bozeman High School, where the Gallatin Rest Home is located. The Bozeman Zoning Commission approved a request to rezone the 9.8 acres from residential medium density, R-3, to residential high density, R-4.

The city commission is scheduled to consider the zoning change at its meeting on Tuesday.

The major difference between the two zoning districts is that R-4 allows apartment buildings while R-3 allows for more limited apartment buildings. R-4 also allows for an increase in building height of four feet, Community Development Manager Chris Saunders said. Child care would be allowed in either zoning district.

The plans are not expected to impact the rest home, which sits on about four acres of the property.

Several residents of the adjacent neighborhood to the west of the property voiced concerns during the meeting that the zoning change and its subsequent allowable increase in density would change the character of their “quiet” neighborhood.

Zoning Commission members, who approved the zoning change unanimously, said the property is an ideal place for infill development, which is a stated priority of the city.

“I think it’s a shame that the term ‘high density’ has become a dirty word. I wish that as a community we could recognize that things are changing rapidly, and that things are not going to stay the same,” commission member Mark Genito said.

“They’re not going to stay the same as when we moved here or bought a house here … we’re trying to meet those needs.”

Neighbors also brought up concerns about impacts to traffic and parking the development may bring to the area.

Gallatin County Commissioner Zach Brown, who attended the virtual meeting, said the county would be transparent as it moves forward with site planning and other steps in the development process and would consider holding a town hall meeting with neighbors on top of the required public city meetings.

“We want to engage your neighborhood in a conversation about what any iteration of this property might look like in the future,” Brown said.

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

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