Community Forum Creates Opportunity for Public Engagement – Explore Big Sky
Big Sky Chamber Hosts Fourth Annual Community Forum to Discuss Projects and Issues
By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – The Big Sky Chamber of Commerce brought together key Big Sky stakeholders and community members on the evening of September 30 to engage in a discussion of the region’s current projects and issues for the fourth annual forum community development.
Between a live and virtual audience, 140 people gathered online and at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center to hear presentations from seven local public, private and non-profit developers on their latest updates. Several key themes emerged, including workforce housing, financial and environmental sustainability, and public safety with respect to forest fires and water. Two question-and-answer sessions allowed the audience to speak directly to the presenters.
“We had a great turnout so I think it’s still a good barometer of our community’s engagement,” Niva told EBS after the event. “People are curious about things; they want to know things. Our job is to make sure the right information is shared.
In the grip of a local housing crisis, housing was an important topic for presenters, both in the private and non-profit sectors.
The Flatiron Conceptual Development, a proposed 1,440 unit project near Lone Moose, would include residential and commercial space in 14 buildings and provide public amenities for skiers at Big Sky Resort. Flatiron Project Manager Chris Leonard said during his development presentation that 900 labor beds will be included in the project. The development, which is seeking approval from the county zoning boards, has an estimated lifespan of 15-20 years.
Matt Kidd, Managing Director of CrossHarbor Capital Partners, presented on behalf of the local Boston-based subsidiaries, Yellowstone Club and Lone Mountain Land Company.
“I want to recognize the many challenges that currently exist for you and your businesses,” Kidd said. “The availability of housing is the number one problem. The cost of housing is very much related to this. I would tell you that the next nine months will be the most difficult in Big Sky history or the future to secure housing.
Indeed, statistics later shared by Laura Seyfang, executive director of the Big Sky Community Housing Trust, would emphasize Kidd’s claim. According to his presentation, 78% of Big Sky’s workforce commutes, there is 0% rental availability in Big Sky, and less than 30% of Big Sky homes are occupied by residents.
Kidd provided updates on LMLC and YC developments, including Moonlight Basin and Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, as well as LMLC’s workforce housing projects, Powder Light Subdivision and the Affordable Housing Project. RiverView. RiverView, a collaboration with the Housing Trust, will provide 100 rental units.
“We believe that the path to success in this city is for us to find how we can collaborate and work together to solve this really difficult problem,” Seyfang said.
New construction projects like RiverView are years away, but the housing trust is working on shorter-term projects in the meantime. The Rent Local program, which encourages owners to rent from premises rather than putting their property on the vacation rental market, has been a successful short-term initiative according to Seyfang.
Despite recent successes in creating short-term solutions, Seyfang echoed Kidd in saying it will be a difficult winter to find accommodation.
Big Sky Resort general manager Troy Nedved said workforce housing is one of the key initiatives the resort is tackling. Nedved said the Mountain Lodge East update added 36 more beds, bringing the resort’s total to 667 beds. Nedved added that the complex’s five-year workforce housing plan will add more beds in the future.
Nedved also provided an update on the resort’s work to improve the guest experience, including the new Swift Current 6 lift, which will be operational for the 2021-22 ski season. The complex’s Forever project will continue to be an important sustainability project, Nedved said. This project includes the resort’s new high-efficiency snowmaking equipment, as well as the purchase of renewable energy credits that allow the resort to run on 100% renewable electricity.
In other presentations, community infrastructure was a focal point. Ron Edwards, general manager of the Big Sky County Water and Sewer District, provided an update on the many projects the district is working on, with the biggest undertaking being the upgrade of the sewage treatment plant. . The $ 43 million upgrade will double the capacity of the facility and phase 1 of construction is expected to be completed in 2023.
Other common water and sewer-related tasks include finding and fixing leaks, well exploration efforts, and rate increases.
Danny Bierschwale, executive director of the Big Sky Resort Area District, opened his presentation by asking the audience about their experiences with the issues his organization is working to solve.
After asking how many people are waiting to be able to have a PO box, Bierschwale explained how the OSRAD is working with the post office on plans to expand the postal service and potentially receive a federal designation on the road.
“How many of you have been passed on the right side of Lone Mountain Road going up towards the resort?” ” He asked. Most of the spectators raised their hands.
This shared experience will be addressed through projects funded by the TIGER Grant, a federal grant to County Gallatin for improvements along the Lone Mountain Trail. Bierschwale said OSRAD continues to work on getting these projects off the ground after the first bid went over budget by $ 3 million.
Big Sky Fire Chief Greg Megaard and Deputy Fire Chief Dustin Tetrault concluded the evening with a discussion about the forest-urban interface that is Big Sky and how the fire service of Big Sky is working to make it safer.
Megaard noted that BSFD plans to open Big Sky Resort Station 2 24/7, a huge step in expanding its services. Tetrault praised the Big Sky community for its proactive efforts to address risk factors.
During Q&A, Kidd and Nedved answered questions from the audience about workforce retention, detailing how their organizations are working to increase benefits and accommodate their seasonal employees. Niva added that this winter, anyone entering Big Sky will receive a notification on their phone welcoming them and providing them with information.
Edwards and Tetrault spent time answering several questions at the end of the evening. In response to questions about emergency response and evacuation plans, Tetrault said BSFD recently conducted a tabletop exercise to simulate an emergency and identify weak points in the plan.
Water was on everyone’s mind too, as people questioned water management and a potential unified water and sewer district. Edwards said he is working with the new Gallatin Canyon Water and Sewer District and may consider a unified district in the future.