Developers talk new construction, employee housing and resort upgrades

By Amanda Eggert EBS Associate Editor

BIG SKY – The businesses driving the lion’s share of development in Big Sky outlined projects they’re working on and fielded questions from the public at an Oct. 11 forum held at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center.

Approximately 150 people attended the meeting hosted by the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce that included presentations from five major developers, as well as Big Sky Community Organization Executive Director Ciara Wolfe; Steve Johnson of the Big Sky Zoning District Advisory Committee; and David Kack with Big Sky Transportation District.

Each presenter had six minutes to update the community on projects that are underway or in planning stages. The chamber of commerce recorded the forum and the video can be found here.

Below are some highlights from those presentations:

Kevin Germain, Moonlight Basin

    Lone Mountain Land Company broke ground on the Ulery cabins along Ulery’s Lake this summer.
    The Timbers, a collection of 10 five- and six-bedroom houses, is also under construction.
    Next spring, Lone Mountain Land Company will break ground on the Entry condos and the Lodge residences.
    The first LEED-certified project in Moonlight Basin, the 22-unit Silvertip subdivision is wrapping up.

Brian Wheeler, Big Sky Resort Development

    Since Big Sky installed the tram 20 years, ago skier visits have doubled and the resort is pushing 480,000 skier visits annually.
    A mixed-use subdivision in Mountain Village called the Montana Club is underway.
    Plans are in the works to construct an employee housing campus on the north end of Mountain Village, complete with restaurants and laundry facilities.

Taylor Middleton, Big Sky Resort Operations

    As part of its 10-year plan, the resort has invested $10 million in chairlift upgrades this year, which includes a new six-person “blue bubble” lift with heated seats called Powder Seeker.
    Lift expansions will increase the resort’s total continuous vertical feet to 4,400. Big Sky could then reclaim the title of the ski area with the most continuous vertical feet in North America.
    A tram replacement or upgrade is planned within the next few years.

Ryan Hamilton, Big Sky Town Center

    Residential projects under construction include 14 Essentia condos to be completed in 2017 and 18 Elevation 6000 condos to be completed in 2016. Lone Mountain Land Company is developing 32 residential condos with a 2017 completion date.
    Commercial projects under construction include a remodel and addition to the Peaks Building; a two-story commercial building Lone Mountain Land Company is developing; and a three-story, mixed-use building with 16 apartments and condos on the upper levels. That project, near the intersection of Highway 64 and Ousel Falls Road, is slated for completion this year.
    Town Center will start construction on Central Plaza, a mixed-use building near Roxy’s Grocery along Town Center Avenue, in 2017.

Alex Iskendarian, Spanish Peaks

    Digging and infrastructure work started on the Spanish Peaks hotel about a year ago. Little has changed at the site since, but the facility is in design phase and on schedule. Construction on the 500,000-square foot hotel will begin next spring or summer.
    Two homes in the Highlands development have been completed recently.

Mike DuCuennois, Yellowstone Club

    The Yellowstone Club is also constructing a massive lodge. It’s approximately 550,000 square feet and currently being built. It’s a $295 million project—the most expensive in the state’s history—and is scheduled for completion in November 2018.
    Sixty-eight homes are currently under construction at the club.
    More than half of the club’s memberships have been spoken for—580 of 860 total memberships have been filled.
    The Department of Environmental Quality has not fined the Yellowstone Club for its March sewer pond spill. The reclamation process for post-spill erosion control finished last week and has been inspected by DEQ.

Ciara Wolfe, Big Sky Community Organization

    Construction of Ralph’s Pass, a 2.7-mile trail connecting the Uplands and Ousel Falls trails, started this fall. BSCO will host a grand opening on June 15, 2017.
    Installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Highway 64 and Ousel Falls Road will begin next spring. BSCO planned to begin construction this fall, but a delay in the Department of Transportation permitting process pushed the project back.
    BSCO is working on a pedestrian tunnel that will allow for safe pedestrian crossing of Highway 64 near Little Coyote Road. The earliest tunnel construction would start is summer of 2017, and the latest would be summer of 2018.

Steve Johnson, Big Sky Zoning District Advisory Committee

    The application for a “man camp” style development and attendant conditional zoning use was withdrawn in the face of mounting public opposition. The project is currently stalled, but could come before the committee again.
    A substation between the existing ones in Meadow Village and Lone Mountain is in the works. NorthWestern Energy has a site identified between Sleeping Bear and Antler Ridge, which has generated concern among homeowners there. A conditional use application would be required for that site.

In response to a question about a hotel in Town Center, Iskendarian said there are plans to break ground on a new nationally branded hotel in March or April of next year.

An audience member asked if the Yellowstone Club has plans to house seasonal workers on their property since they wouldn’t have to get a permit, and zoning is less restrictive in Madison County.

“We’re not looking inside the gates of the Yellowstone Club to house those employees,” Iskendarian replied.

DuCuennois said Yellowstone Club has a deal with the 320 Ranch to house employees there this winter and a five-year lease on Gallatin Gateway Inn with an option to buy.

In response to a question about why BSCO is pursuing a traffic signal rather than a roundabout at the intersection of Highway 64 and Ousel Falls Road, Wolfe said a traffic signal would be safer since it would actually stop vehicles so pedestrians and cyclists could cross.

She added that installing a traffic signal costs $1 million less than a roundabout and there are more pressing needs in the community. Kack said the DOT tends not to install roundabouts on state highways.

At the meeting close, there was a question about whether or not the Big Sky Water and Sewer District board is working on a public relations campaign to discharge treated effluent into the Gallatin River.

“That is not going on right now,” said DuCuennois, who also sits on the BSWSD board. “That’s part of a bigger global solution that may be a solution, may not.”

He urged the community member to attend a meeting of the Big Sky Water Solutions Forum.

“There’s not any other community I know of in the country that’s storing hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater,” said DuCuennois, adding that water treatment technology has improved dramatically in the past 10 years, and other options like using effluent for snowmaking are part of the discussion.