Growth, grizzlies and gold made big news in 2017.

But the story that made the biggest local headlines last year was congressional candidate Greg Gianforte’s assault of a reporter from the Guardian.

Growth was the common theme in the rebound of the Bozeman area’s economy and housing market, and the squeeze on affordable housing. Growth fueled the community decision to build a second high school.

A developer’s determination to build a five-story residential and commercial building known as Black-Olive on the edge of a historic neighborhood sparked controversy about the kind of growth Bozeman should have. And the City Commission’s dissatisfaction with Bozeman’s preparedness for growth appeared to be behind the decision to hire a new city manager.

Rounding out the list of top 10 stories, selected by the Bozeman Chronicle’s editors, were major environmental and crime stories.

Grizzly bears were removed from the federal protections of the endangered species list, and local residents organized to fight gold mining planned just north of Yellowstone National Park.

Serious crimes made headlines in 2017, including the killing of a Broadwater County sheriff’s deputy near Three Forks.

No. 1: Greg Gianforte elected to Congress after assaulting reporter

Greg Gianforte

Greg Gianforte is seen in a Jeep near a Discovery Drive building after an assault on a reporter on May 24.

Now-Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte was cited for misdemeanor assault on a reporter from the Guardian on the eve of this year’s special election to fill now-Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke’s vacated congressional seat.

Ben Jacobs, the reporter Gianforte assaulted, tweeted shortly after the incident at a campaign BBQ for the then-candidate. In his tweet, Jacobs said, “Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses.”

Gianforte was announced the winner on the night of the special election with 50 percent of the votes. Democrat Rob Quist had 44 percent and libertarian candidate Mark Wicks had 6 percent.

A month after the election, Gianforte plead guilty to the assault in Gallatin County Justice Court. Judge Rick West gave Gianforte a six-month deferred sentence, and ordered him to complete 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management classes, as well as $385 in court fees.

Gianforte publicly apologized to Jacobs, saying he had no right to assault the reporter. He also donated $50,000 to a journalism nonprofit organization.

No. 2: Growth

The area — and state — continue to grow

The Prospera report cites U.S. Census data that suggest the Gallatin Valley’s growth shows no sign of slowing.

Between 2000 and 2016, Gallatin County had the largest population increase in the state at nearly 53 percent. Last year, the county ranked 22nd in the nation in terms of growth rate.

As the Chronicle previously reported, roughly 80 percent of the county’s population gain between 2015 and 2016 came from the number of new arrivals exceeding the number of people leaving for other places, with the remainder stemming from a “natural increase,” or the difference between birth and death rates.

The county’s 3.7 percent growth rate is by far the fastest in the state. By comparison, Flathead County, the state’s second-fastest growing county, grew at a rate of 2 percent.

“Gallatin County is still one of the fastest-growing counties in the country, and certainly in the state,” said Prospera’s Executive Director Paul Reichert. “That definitely jumps out.”

According to projections released by the Montana Department of Commerce Census and Economic Information Center, Montana is expected to reach a population of nearly 1.3 million by 2060. In that time, the proportion of older residents — those age 65 and above — will nearly double, while the proportion of younger age groups is expected to decrease.

Gallatin County is expected to hit 145,000 residents by 2060.

With Bozeman again ranked the fastest growing city in Montana, swelling more than 4 percent each year, it’s no surprise that growth — and all that comes with it — remains a topic on the mouths and minds of folks around the valley.

The consistent influx of new residents is, by now, no new story. But the tangential effects of this expansion continue to play out across Bozeman and surrounding communities in ways both positive and negative.

By most metrics, the area is experiencing an economic boom, though wages have yet to catch up to an ever-increasing cost of living. Housing, particularly of the affordable variety, also continues to lag behind, leaving few cheap options for renters or prospective owners. Moreover, booming population numbers have prompted questions about infrastructure, identity and planning for the area’s future.

For better or worse, it appears growth is an issue that isn't going away anytime soon.

No. 3: Voters pass bond for new high school

Voters passed a $125 million bond issue to build Bozeman’s second high school and modernize Bozeman High School, the biggest bond issue in Gallatin Valley history.

It passed in May with nearly 66 percent yes votes, as residents agreed with school leaders that the best way to cope with Bozeman High’s growing number of teenagers was to build a second school.

The new school’s design features an auditorium, large student commons, three-story classroom building, and the same types of music, shop and art classes that Bozeman High has. It will be built just north of Meadowlark Elementary School, at North Cottonwood Road and the future West Oak Street.

The School Board gave preliminary approval to the idea of building a new football stadium at Bozeman High, which both schools would use. A final decision is expected Jan. 8.

Bozeman High is also expected to get a new classroom building and auditorium, in an effort to make the two schools equally attractive and avoid creation of “have and have-not” schools.

Not yet tackled are key decisions on the new school’s name, mascot, colors and attendance boundaries. Bulldozers will start working on the site this spring. The ambitious timetable calls for opening the new school by the fall of 2020.

No. 4: Broadwater County sheriff's deputy killed

Deputy Mason Moore Funeral Service

Law enforcement lift Deputy Mason Moore's casket down from a firetruck in front of Three Forks High School, the end of the funeral procession.

During the early morning hours of May 16, Broadwater County Deputy Mason Moore was shot and killed following a pursuit on U.S. Highway 287.

According to law enforcement and prosecutors, the suspects - 39-year-old Marshall Barrus of Belgrade and his 61-year-old father Lloyd Barrus - baited Moore into the pursuit as part of a "suicide mission."

After shooting Moore near Three Forks, the father-son duo led law enforcement on a multi-county chase west on Interstate 90, reportedly shooting at officers while driving, according to officials.

The chase came to an end near Rock Creek when the Baruses' vehicle was disabled. Marshall was shot and killed at the scene, while Lloyd was taken into custody after a handgun was shot out of his hand during a firefight.

Lloyd is facing charges of deliberate homicide by accountability, attempted deliberate homicide, attempted deliberate homicide by accountability, assault on a peace officer and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted person. He is being held in the Missoula County jail on $4 million bail while awaiting trial on the charges in Broadwater County. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Moore, 42, was a father of three who lived in Three Forks with his wife and family. He was also a volunteer firefighter with the Three Forks Fire Department. His funeral at a Belgrade church on May 23 was attended by hundreds of law enforcement officers and firefighters from across the country.

No. 5: Grizzlies delisted

Yellowstone Grizzlies

FILE - This July 6, 2011 file photo shows a grizzly bear roaming near Beaver Lake in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. Wildlife managers in the Northern Rockies are laying the groundwork for trophy grizzly bear hunts in the Northern Rockies as the government moves toward lifting the animals' threatened species status.

After 42 years, Endangered Species Act protections were removed from the Yellowstone grizzly bears this past summer.

Lifting the threatened status from the bears shifted management responsibility to the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana and opened the door for potential trophy hunts. No hunts have been planned in any of the states yet.

The move drew praise from government officials and a few conservation groups. They say who the bears are recovered and that the recovery is a conservation success story.

Yet opposition to the decision remains robust. Several lawsuits have been filed over the decision by a slew of environmental groups and a few Native American tribes. A judge recently combined the cases.

Legal challenges sunk the last delisting of the grizzly bears, which came in 2007.

No. 6: Mining proposals near Yellowstone National Park

Canadian Mining Company Looks for Permit to Drill Near Emigrant

Mining is being proposed in the Paradise Valley.

A company got closer to drilling for gold on private land in the mountains east of the Paradise Valley this past summer, as state environmental officials decided that their plans could go forward.

Lucky Minerals Inc., based in Canada, received approval for its exploration plans from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in July. The company plans to begin work in the summer of 2018.

Meanwhile, opponents of the company’s plans have been pushing Montana’s congressional delegation to get a bill passed that would ban new mining claims on about 30,000 acres of public lands near where Lucky wants to drill. They say it will hamper the company’s ability to expand.

Federal legislation is the only way such a ban can be made permanent. All members of Montana’s delegation have signaled support for the bill, which has been introduced in both the House and the Senate.

No. 7: The saga of the Black-Olive development

Black-Olive May 2017 redesign

HomeBase Montana’s Black-Olive building, as proposed in the company’s May 2017 design for the project.

A future five-story apartment and commercial building became Bozeman’s 2017 poster child of a split over how the city should (or shouldn’t) grow.

The argument around developer Andy Holloran’s project known as Black-Olive led into a year of delays, lawsuits and the creation of citizen group Save Bozeman with a mission of “infill not overfill.”

Some Bozemanites said Black-Olive would shadow nearby historic homes and lay the path for similar projects to follow. Those on the other side argued the building offered needed housing.

Save Bozeman members tried to sue the city for the way it tweaked building guidelines in 2015 that they say allow for projects like Black-Olive. City officials said the changes clarified Bozeman expectations.

The argument ended this year in a few phases.

First, the city reaffirmed its 2015 development guideline changes, once again taking it through the public process. Around the same time, a judge rejected Save Bozeman’s request to make the city hold off on reviewing projects like Black-Olive while the lawsuit continued. Soon after, the Bozeman City Commission approved plans for Black-Olive.

Before the case was resolved, Bozeman’s commissioners readopted their ordinance and once again went through public comment. This month, Save Bozeman agreed to drop the lawsuit against the city, saying that step made the case moot.

No. 8: Homicides

Bozeman man admits to killing wife with frying pan, documents say

Jake Collins

There were a number of other high-profile homicides that rocked Bozeman in 2017.

On Jan. 2, 33-year-old Jake Collins was arrested and charged with deliberate homicide for the death of his 32-year-old wife Crystal.

According to officials, Crystal was reported missing on New Year's Day. After investigating, officials say that Collins later admitted to killing Crystal. He told investigators that, following a New Year's Eve party, the two got into a fight. He reportedly said he was intoxicated and hit Crystal in the head with a cast-iron frying pan and cut her throat. He later tried to dispose of her body and evidence at the Logan landfill, but it was closed for the holiday and he returned home.

Collins pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide and is scheduled to go to trial in August.

On July 29, Bozeman police officer Zach Heninger shot and killed his wife Danielle before killing himself.

According to police, police responded to the Heninger's Story Street home after reported gunshots. They found both Danielle, 31, and Zach, 40, with gunshot wounds. Both were taken to the hospital where they later died. The couple had three children who were at home at the time of the incident.

On Nov. 21, 72-year-old William "Bill" Franks was allegedly killed by his 37-year-old son Tanner. According to officials, Tanner stabbed Bill in the kitchen of their North Ninth Avenue home before fleeing. He was later arrested near Big Sky.

Tanner reportedly admitted to a Bozeman detective to the killing, saying that he acted in a "blackout rage." He has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide. A trial date has not been set.

No. 9: City manager shake-up

Andrea Surratt City Manager Profile

Bozeman's new City Manager Andrea Surratt sits for a photo outside her new office in City Hall on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. The North Carolina native brings over 26 years of city work and planning experience to her new job.

After weeks of emails and closed-door meetings, the City of Bozeman and its top employee split ways this year, leading to a new person grabbing the reins amidst a lot of change.

In March, the city commission ousted City Manager Chris Kukulski, who had the job since 2004. The commission said the departure was a mutual agreement. It also came with a $181,000 severance package for Kukulski.

Leading up to the dismissal, some commissioners were frustrated with how planning for Bozeman’s future was going, according to emails the Chronicle obtained through a public records request. Other emails showed the elected body’s move was months in the making.

After roughly seven months with an interim manager, the city commission picked Andrea Surratt of North Carolina for the job in October. Surratt’s contract secured her about $148,500 a year plus $2,000 a month for a housing allowance— beyond Kukulski’s pay of $144,500 and double his $1,000-a-month housing allowance.

Since moving to Bozeman in November, Surratt has had to play catch-up to help guide the final stages of several long-term plans for Bozeman — from overall goals to building rules — that were years in the making.

No. 10: MSU enrollment

MSU Wild

A biker rides in front of Montana Hall in between classes on the Montana State University campus.

Montana State University set another all-time enrollment record this fall, with 16,703 students.

It was the 10th year in a row that MSU set an enrollment record -- so it might seem like a bit of a yawn, rather than major news. Yet considering that MSU is this area’s biggest employer and economic engine -- and considering the contrast with the University of Montana, where enrollment slipped again -- it’s still a big deal for Bozeman that MSU remains strong.

Construction continues on the $50 million Asbjornson Hall, new home to the colleges of Engineering and Honors – and a new $18 million dining hall. MSU won approval from the Board of Regents to build a new $50 million, 480-bed dormitory on West College Street.

MSU experienced controversy over whether to create a new economic research center, to be funded by the Koch Foundation. The Faculty Senate declined to endorse the center, putting it in limbo, though the research funded by the foundation continues.

MSU also reported its highest graduation rate and lowest freshman dropout rate – more good news as the university gears up to celebrate its 125th anniversary in February.

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