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Construction of workforce housing in Big Sky is inching closer to fruition thanks to approval by the Gallatin County Commission.

The commission gave the go-ahead to a request for building for lease or rent at Tuesday’s meeting, paving the next step for the construction of a 24-unit workforce housing dormitory on just over 6 acres in the Powder Light Subdivision.

The proposed structure could provide housing to just over 220 workers, offering four to five bedroom units with two occupants per room.

But while building is one step closer, a turn lane stands in the way of occupants actually being able to move into the housing.

The Gallatin County Commission initially voted against the Powder Light Subdivision — next to the Ace Hardware and Big Sky Vacation Rentals — in 2017 due to safety concerns stemming from the increase in traffic would bring into and out of the development onto Highway 64, more commonly known as Lone Mountain Trail.

“We want workforce housing,” Commissioner Joe Skinner said. “At the time, we didn’t consider it was a safe tradeoff to subdivide that land for workforce housing when there were significant safety issues involved.”

After the commission unanimously voted against the subdivision, original developer A2LD sued, claiming that the commission’s reasoning and decision were illegal. A main component of the subdivision’s rejection came from a disagreement between the commission and the developer on whether a turn lane needed to be added to lessen the effect the development would have on traffic.

The developer did their own independent traffic impact study, which found that there was no need for a turn lane. The county conducted their own as well, which found that a turn lane was necessary.

The lawsuit was eventually dropped thanks in part to the county receiving a $10.3 million federal grant in 2019 to help improve spur roads by adding left turn lanes. Lone Mountain Trail, among other roads, falls under the scope of the grant.

Construction of the turn lanes has not started yet, with the county putting the project up for rebid earlier this year.

With the commission’s approval Tuesday, the next step is gaining a land use permit. Lone Mountain Land Company bought lot four — where the three story dormitory will be — and lot three of the subdivision in Dec. 2019. Underground utilities have already been placed.

Construction of the housing, which will feature a gym and food truck area, could begin as early as August, and could be finished by Spring 2022. Bayard Dominick, vice president of planning and development for Lone Mountain Land Company, said that the developer is considering building the turn lane themselves instead of waiting for the county’s rebidding process.

“We’re hoping that we can get things moving forward with the county and the state relative to the turn lane, not only so we can get these built, but get them occupied sooner than later,” Dominick said. “Because there is a significant need for housing in Big Sky and we’re hoping to start to put a dent in that.”

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Alex Miller is the county and state government reporter and can be reached at amiller@dailychronicle.com or by phone at 406-582-2648.

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