Owner concerns included Town Center development, road conditions, snowplowing costs

By Sarah Gianelli EBS Associate Editor

BIG SKY – Hundreds of homeowners gathered in Big Sky Resort’s Summit Hotel for the 45th annual meeting of the Big Sky Owners Association on Sept. 1. With approximately 2,300 properties encompassing 8,000 acres across both Gallatin and Madison counties, the BSOA is Big Sky’s largest and oldest homeowner’s association.

In addition to a yearly recap of BSOA business and budget updates, and presentations by representatives of the resort and community organizations, it was the last opportunity for members to cast their ballots for four open seats on the board of directors and two on the architectural committee, which oversees compliance with design regulations and subdivision covenants.

Members also voted on a proposed amendment to the BSOA bylaws to instate a term limit of three years for the board of directors.

As of EBS press time on Sept. 13, the results of the election had not yet been finalized. The association’s bylaws require the outcome be announced within 30 days of the annual meeting.

During a presentation of the 2017-2018 budget by Treasurer Kevin Frederick, he showed that the majority of the BSOA’s approximately $1 million budget goes toward snow removal, despite partial reimbursement by Madison County.

He also noted a shift in the association’s focus from enforcing architectural codes toward preserving and improving quality of life.

The association faces a sizable upcoming expense in this category—the rehabilitation of Little Coyote and Silverbow ponds. BSOA has some money set aside for the project and will look to 2018 resort tax appropriations to fund the remainder.

“The ponds belong to us,” Frederick said. “We’re going to make it a world-class attraction for our membership.”

Wrapped into this project is a plan to replace the Little Coyote bridge over the West Fork of the Gallatin River to allow for safer pedestrian passage, a joint effort of the owners’ association, Big Sky Community Organization and Big Sky Water and Sewer District.

The association is also addressing concerns about increased traffic and speeds on Little Coyote Road.

Taylor Middleton, general manager of Big Sky Resort, led the community presentations with a slide show of data showing Big Sky and Big Sky Resort on an upward trend in almost all areas—employment rates, resort tax collections, population, traffic, sewer flows, regional airport expansion, school enrollment, and real estate values, though the latter not as steeply. The one exception was snowfall.

“That’s a good slide to have a flat line on,” Middleton said. “You don’t want to have deviation with snowfall. You want to be standard and consistent.”

He said that skier visits to Big Sky Resort are averaging a 4 percent annual growth, with more than 478,000 skier visits last season, while nationally the ski industry is flat. He attributed it to the growth and development both in the community and at the resort.

“It’s a triad of things we have to do as a community and resort to be successful: we have to have summer and winter recreation opportunities, a vibrant community and great transportation—and this stool will not tip over.”

With 70 percent of resort tax collected in the winter and only 30 percent in the summer, Middleton said Big Sky still has a way to go to bring that figure closer to 50/50.

Ron Edwards, general manager of Big Sky Water and Sewer District, gave a grave talk about the challenges of staying ahead of area sewer and water capacity and the necessity of moderating irrigation practices.

“Our demand is much, much lower in those months when we’re not irrigating,” Edwards said. “We can kind of control our water use in the future by controlling our irrigation and our appetite for it.”

He referenced a study that shows that the Meadow will be out of surplus water in 2023, and the resort in 2022. He said the Big Sky Sustainable Water Solutions Forum, which has been meeting regularly for over a year to talk about the ecological health of the community, hopes to have a master plan to deal with some of these issues by the end of 2017.

Town Center Project Manager Ryan Hamilton provided an update on current and future construction and development projects, pointing out that while it might seem like a sudden boom, many of these plans have been in the works for almost 20 years.

In addition to 32 new residential properties—half of which are currently under construction—called the Golden Stone Place condominiums, there are plans for the residential/commercial Plaza Lofts building on Town Center Avenue and a central plaza in front of the Wilson Hotel, both of which are slated to be completed by summer 2018. The Wilson Hotel is expected to open for the 2018-2019 ski season.

Ciara Wolfe, executive director of Big Sky Community Organization gave an update on projects that include connecting the dots between the Mountain to Meadow Trail so no road travel will be necessary. Wolfe said the BSCO is currently working with Lone Mountain Ranch and several landowners to gain the necessary easements to add 1.6 miles of connector trail that would utilize Lone Mountain Ranch’s tunnel under Highway 64 to access the Crail Ranch Trail and Town Center.

Hamilton, as a representative of Town Center, had to field the majority of questions posed during the Q&A portion of the meeting.

In addition to concerns about the bright lights on the Mountain Lodge in Mountain Village, BSOA members inquired about the increased lighting in Town Center.
Hamilton said they have switched to higher quality LED lighting that, in being dark-sky compliant, meet all the requirements of area zoning regulations. “But,” he added, “more parking lots mean more lighting. It’s a public safety concern.”

Complaints about people parking their trailers, boats and other vehicles for long periods of time in Town Center lots were also directed at Hamilton.

“Now I know why I was invited up here,” he joked. “We could be better about that … we need to take it to the next level and adopt some regulation and enforcement measures.”

Other bothersome issues for homeowners included the condition of the bridge and its damaged guardrail on Lone Mountain Trail just west of the Conoco, potholes and the speed limit on Little Coyote, and snowplowing costs.

The forum ended with a question put to Hamilton about whether Town Center would ever see a bypass road to divert some of the construction traffic.

“There isn’t a possible bypass I can see,” he said. “Ousel Falls Road is it, I guess is the answer.”

Visit bigskymt.org for more information and updates on the results of BSOA elections.