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Neighbors to a project in the early stages of city approval say the potentially high-density development is inappropriate for south Bozeman.

Developers have proposed building homes on a 20-acre parcel near Fowler Lane near the Meadow Creek subdivision. During a zoning commission meeting Monday night, residents near the proposed Buffalo Run development said its density would create traffic that could strain roads around their homes and wouldn’t match the character of the area.

The land would need to be annexed into the city and requires a zone map amendment, which the zoning commission passed on a 3-1 vote on Monday. One zoning board commissioner did not attend the meeting.

City commissioners will consider the issue in April. A representative for the developers said, if approved, they hope to begin construction in spring 2022.

Buffalo Run developers first sought residential mixed-use, high-density development, known as R-5 zoning, but withdrew the application in late February just before the city commission was scheduled to vote on the project.

Developer Derek Williams said they withdrew the application for the project after they were unable reach an agreement with nearby residents about zoning. Williams said developers also worked with residents to address disagreements about two road issues.

The resubmitted proposal seeks high-density residential development with a variety of housing types, known as an R-4 development.

Williams said the R-4 designation is a lot less dense from what developers first proposed.

“We tried very hard to buffer this project from the Meadow Creek residences,” Williams said. “And, candidly, the city is in a housing crisis …. We’re well within the growth boundary of the city.”

Still, several of the more than 20 people who spoke against the change at the Monday zoning commission meeting said that even R-4 zoning would burden their neighborhood.

Residents also raised questions about whether nearby roads could handle the increased traffic a housing development would bring to the area.

“If this were along an existing corridor, if this were along 19th, R-4, R-5 would be fantastic. But it’s not the right place here,” said David Parker, with the Meadow Creek Homeowners Association Board. “We recognize we need houses here in this community, but please don’t put this traffic on this lovely quiet community here.”

Community Development Manager Chris Saunders said the proposal meets the requirements for a zoning change. Bozeman’s growth policy, passed in 2020, permits annexation and outward growth along with infill, he said.

A few zoning commission members questioned whether developers would keep the promises made to residents and whether the level of density is appropriate there.

Zoning commissioner George Thompson was the only person to vote against the zoning change. Thompson listed a number of reasons for his opposition, including the increased traffic the development could bring to the area.

“It is certainly not in the spirit of what we intended when we have areas so far removed from the core part of town for high density,” Thompson said. “This project is solely on an island.”

Other zoning commission members acknowledged concerns about what the development will turn into but noted more housing is needed in the city.

Zoning commissioner Nicole Olmstead said hard decisions will be needed to accommodate Bozeman’s rapid growth and its need for housing.

“We want to make this a nice place for more than just wealthy people to live, but in order to do that, in order to actually create that sense of place, we need to be willing to, you know, open the door to the conversations about higher density development,” Olmstead said. “That’s just the reality of it.”

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

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