Gallatin County Courthouse File

Commuters pass by the Gallatin County Courthouse on June 25, 2020, in downtown Bozeman.

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The Gallatin County Commission has approved the development of a 20-home subdivision north of Bozeman.

The East Gallatin Preserve will sit near Springhill Road about two miles north of Frontage Road in an area that’s a mix of agricultural land and subdivisions.

The new homes will sit on 230 acres and will have three areas of open space, including one along the East Gallatin River, which will run through the western portion of the subdivision.

The developers, LFT MT, LLC, and EGP, LLC, will provide an easement along Springhill Road to allow for the future creation of trails. They also agreed to build trails within the subdivision.

To limit the impact on wildlife, no homes will be near the river and surface ponds are prohibited.

Two agricultural ditches run through the property, posing some development challenges. One, the Beck-Nelson-Flannery Ditch, will be diverted to a pipe where it crosses the subdivision.

Bob Heidecker, a nearby landowner, said he wouldn’t support the pipe without a written agreement detailing when it would be installed, who would maintain it and who would be liable for it.

“My concern is I need water for sure and (with) subdivisions, if we’re not careful, it quickly becomes impractical for us to use that water,” he said.

The other ditch, Arnold Ditch, hasn’t been used for irrigation for years, making it difficult to map and leading to disagreements between Heidecker and the developers about where it should be drawn on the preliminary plat. Even though Arnold Ditch isn’t used, its location is significant as homes must be set back from ditches according to county subdivision regulations.

A few other nearby landowners voiced concerns about the loss of farmland in the Gallatin Valley.

The Shumka family submitted a letter saying agricultural land is worth preserving.

“With a continuously diminishing amount of good agricultural land, preserving farmland is of the utmost importance for the cultivation of crops that are critical to world food supply to maintaining agriculture as a viable industry to protect the ecosystem, soil and water quality,” they wrote.

Valorie Drake, of Belgrade, suggested the homes be clustered closer together, leaving a larger parcel of open space that could still be farmed.

Commissioner Joe Skinner joined the two other county commissioners in approving the East Gallatin Preserve but acknowledged the development would impact agriculture.

“I think it’s sad we’re not preserving more for agricultural use. … But the applicant has included covenants to mitigate potential impacts on adjacent landowners,” he said.

The East Gallatin Preserve spans Belgrade and Gallatin County planning jurisdictions, so the development was first considered by the Belgrade Planning Board and the Gallatin County Planning Board. In July, both boards recommended that the county commissioners give preliminary plat approval to the development.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.

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