Community Planning & Neighborhood Transitions

Tuesday Mar. 1st, 2022

On February 9, 2022, the City Commission decided to allow a zoning change on Lamme Street between North Grand and North Third Avenues from R-4 (high-density residential) to B-3 (downtown business). This is not the first zoning change in the neighborhood and they can have a significant impact. In light of this, I encourage everyone to pay attention to the proposed developments in our neighborhood and the transition, or lack thereof, between residential and commercial zones. Transitions can make a big difference by providing space between residential homes and 70-foot buildings. Black-Olive is one example. What is proposed for the Medical Arts Building is another. 

The North Central Master Site is the development proposed by HomeBase Partners, covering 4.4 acres located between West Lamme, West Villard, North Grand, and North Tracy. This includes the block of the Medical Arts Building, its parking lot, and the old hospital. The developer proposed nine 6-story (70-foot-tall) square sided, flat roof buildings. You have likely seen the demolition of the Mountain View Building adjacent to the old Deaconess Hospital, which is to come down as well. 

Similar to the recent zoning change on Lamme, the Commission in 2019 made a zoning change to the Medical Arts Building parking lot from R-4 to B-3. On December 20 last year, the City Commission conditionally approved the Master Site plan (application No 21029) in its Staff Report. Included in that plan is the Ives building (application No 2116). Under the North Central Master Site plan, each individual building within the planned development is conditionally approved by the city. The acceptance suggests that the City Commission approves the developer’s vision of the four-block area and essentially surrenders rights to evaluate individual projects as inconsistent with current community character, as long as they are consistent with the character proposed in the Master Site Plan. 

A group of adjacent businesses and landowners appealed the decision based on the potential for substantial and irrevocable change to the character of Bozeman as determined by a single developer’s vision. The appeal requests the city to reverse the conditional approval in the Staff Report and instead require each building to be “reviewed individually, rather than as a ‘condition’ of approval of the overall Master Plan.” 

About 70 public comments were submitted for the November 2021 meeting that prefaced the City Commission’s Staff Report accepting the proposal. Nearly all of them noted the existing proposal as problematic under current Bozeman Municipal Code and other community plans and regulations. The Staff Report and decision to accept the Master Site Plan did not adequately address most of those concerns. Comments included concerns that the proposed Master Plan would adversely impact: 

The character of Bozeman’s Northeast neighborhood 
Quality of life 
Business and property values 
Access to adequate light and air 
Traffic congestion and noise 
Parking in the downtown core area 
Historic neighborhoods 

The Master Plan, as accepted by the Commission, does not align with the Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District of which it is a part (Bozeman Municipal Code 38.320.10), nor with the Community Plan. For example, the Commission’s Staff Report notes that the transition on the north and west side of the proposed Ives building is not congruent with current neighborhood character, as it towers over the existing residential homes. Rather than using the proposed Ives building as an opportunity to help the city develop better transition precedent between residential homes and tall commercial buildings, the report identifies the Ives as incongruous, but then uses it as an example transition for the rest of the colossal development. 

Additionally, the appeal notes that the Master Plan exacerbates existing problems of parking and congestion, and goes against the stated goals for appropriate development as defined by the city code, Bozeman Guidelines for Historic Preservation, the Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District, and other community plans. 

This Master Plan is setting a precedent for how the City Commission accommodates Bozeman’s growth. This approach has been authoritarian in its dismissal of public input and disregard for numerous city plans, codes, and regulations. To maintain the cultural fabric and flavor of our community, development needs to consider transitions between residential and commercial areas, parking and congestion needs, resident safety, and open space—all items that have been carefully considered under the Bozeman Municipal Code and planning recommendations. Now is our opportunity as a community to let the City Commission know we care.

A public hearing on the appeal will be held during the regular City Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 at 6:00pm. Comments on the appeal are open until March 3rd and can be submitted to Bozeman City Clerk, P.O. Box 1230, Bozeman, MT 59771-1230 or by email to Oral statements will be heard at the March 8 City Commission meeting. Comments should identify the specific criteria of concern in the Bozeman Municipal Code and present the facts in support of the comment. 

I encourage you to become informed, discuss the issue with others, and let City Commissioners know how their actions are diverging from the designated process that should ensure a safe, healthy community that maintains the attributes you desire for Bozeman. If you want to be heard, you have to speak up. 

Holly Fretwell has lived in Bozeman for 40 years and currently resides in the North East neighborhood.