Battling Sprawl in the Micropolitan West
The population of Bozeman, Montana has grown +20% since 2000, with more than 2000 new single-family home lots approved in the last two years. Subdivisions are springing up consuming acre after acre of what has been historically used as farm- and ranchland.
Gallatin County, Montana is booming, but keeping the boom from adversely impacting the old way of life is an uphill battle. The Sonoran Institute, based in Tucson, AZ, has been called in to help. Its Mission: "...is to inspire and enable community decisions and public policies that respect the land and people of western North America."
Randy Carpenter, a Sonoran Institute land-use planner, said the seemingly out-of control growth the county is experiencing is an all-too common scenario. "We see this all over, the same types of issues in communities all over the west," Carpenter said.
"With traditional land-use principles, most growth occurs in towns, because that's where it makes sense, and that's where the infrastructure and services are," Carpenter said. "But over the past quarter-century in this county and throughout the West those land-use patterns have started to change, and we're seeing more dispersion of development out into the countryside."
What we need to do is return to those traditional patterns of growth, because it just makes more sense," he said. "What thoughtful communities throughout the West are doing is finding ways to guide that growth back into their towns."
Smaller, denser neighborhoods, erected close to existing communities, and composed of closely-built homes, are the next phase of land use in the West. These new communities would be built close to established infrastructure and amenities, and their density would allow for ample open space attached to each subdivision. And all these new subdivisions would be linked to each other like the holes on a golf course are linked, with each green the community and the fairway the open space.
Gallatin County's proposed zoning plan will limit building densities in unincorporated areas of the county to one home per 160 acres of land, but also allow a great deal of flexibility. And property owners will have a number of options that could actually increase the value of their land. A key option would give rural landowners who might not be able to subdivide their property the chance to sell development credits to developers who would use them to increase the density of projects in designated high-growth areas. Like commodities, the credits could be bought and sold.
We will see how all this pans out in the coming months and years... More at Bozeman Daily Chronicle
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Taunya Fagan Bozeman Homes 406.579.9683 firstname.lastname@example.org