What's Your Beef? Big Sky Falling

Jerry Schuster

All of this development in Bozeman and plans for much more of the same has my mind in a tizzy. I’m not sure what a tizzy is, but I’ve always liked the sound of the word. So anxious to use it in an article.

City powers and big local developers speak in terms of “Zoning Districts and Land Uses.” We ordinary people just look out our windows and see what’s happening. At the end of the day, the developers and city officials have their way and the beat goes on, seemingly without much thought on what this community will look like in a few years.

Oh, don’t get so haughty. Since my wife and I settled in Bozeman for our retirement a few years back, I’ll admit that we are part of the problem. Or, THE problem. There, caught you off guard with that admission.

Well, why did we choose Bozeman? We had several options, all Montana-based, since that is where we wanted to remain. Among our first picks was a town in eastern Montana, just east of Laurel, starts with Bil. I’ve since learned that the place is not to be mentioned in Bozeman, gets you in trouble. 

When we looked closer at Bozeman for retirement, we liked what it had to offer and felt we could offer something in return. Of course, we envisaged the views, the open spaces between houses, the recreational and educational opportunities available, the entertainment and cultural events offered, but mainly the quintessential Montana small town atmosphere. In short, a great place to live!

Now, I drive around town and look out my windows and see something very different happening. Views of the mountains? Mostly unattractive views of buildings and fences. Open spaces between houses? Well, if you are short a cup of sugar while baking, you no longer need to run over to the neighbors. Just extend your arm out the window with the cup, and your neighbor can fill it from their house. Another item: the traffic congestion here and lack of adequate parking is, well, downright un-Montana! That is probably a new term.

I tried to educate myself about this topic, and started with what apparently passes for the City’s Zoning Ordinance. Bad idea. What spewed out of my printer were 300-plus pages of something entitled “Bozeman UDC Re-Organization-Draft.” Promise me right now, you will not read this stuff yourself under any circumstance because it will put you in a really bad mood, and we wouldn’t want that to happen. Waiting for you to promise. Good, we are amenable. You can just sit back, relax and be happy because I have done all the work for you. Here’s a summary of what’s happening in the Bozeman area with building and zoning.

Some of the new developments coming to the community include areas zoned as “residential high density.” According to the Zoning Code or whatever that ream of paper I read was, “residential high density” will allow “high density residential” development. Wow, I am so well advised! Good job code drafters. I’m feeling good now. Okay, the definition, self serving as it may be, allows for a great deal of freedom. My imagination is wistful and running wild.

Bozeman, bring on the high rises! Yes, giant tall condominiums and town houses, all packed in neat and tiny parcels of land. Oh, the view—that will be the tall structure right next to you. The mountains? You sure want a lot. Just go for a hike; we have a very costly trail system here, so please use it. Oh, and we will use up a lot less of the beautiful Gallatin Valley land by building up rather than out.

Here’s the good news. Some of these units will be quite affordable. A basic unit, on the ground floor and looking over the trash containers in the paved parking lot, will start at a reasonable $1,432,000.00. Let’s say you would rather have an upper unit with a nice view of another sky unit balcony. These will set you back around $3,567,000.00. Hey, they all have high price point appliances and amenities. Quit your griping.

There is a bright spot to all of this dour reporting. I’m full of it today. The zoning district will allow for “associated service functions.” Whee! You can purchase a nice hot latte’ at the corner “Café de latte’ a la Bozo.” Then have your laundry done at the local “Mitch’s Ultimate Dry Cleaning Mini”; no water ever used, the items are zapped with laser beams. Caution: may produce some unwanted holes in your pants, but very cool. You can have your cake and eat it too all while enjoying the view of the pavement.

A real benefit to all this building is that we will get to travel outside of the area to vacation and relax. No need to do this at home anymore. The tourist industry is poised to accommodate the mass of people leaving Bozeman on weekends and for vacations. It’s the only way we will get to experience the place we call Montana. You know this place. The one with a Main Street with a Silver Dollar Bar, Vic’s Hardware Store and Paul’s Barber Shop. There is also a Main Street “Café,” mainly a place to meet and talk about the weather and guess who the celebrities are coming into town from Bozeman. Oh, to get ready for your hike just a way down the road, you can enjoy a plate-sized fresh cinnamon roll along with your eggs, sausage and a mountain of real hash browns. One order will satisfy the family for a week. Scratch huckleberry pie in season.

Then it’s on to hike, bike, fish the streams and lakes all before pitching the tent for the evening under the Big Sky.
With the arrival of late Sunday afternoon, we pack the vehicle and head back to our towers and pavement. We anxiously await our next chance to exit.

Oh well, we will all get over it and just get along. When friends and family come to visit, we can just drive out of town to see the Big Sky Country. Chicken Little may have been right all along. Here in Bozeman, it does appear that the Big Sky is falling.  

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