New housing trust director gives update on workforce housing, resort tax summit approaches

By Bay Stephens EBS Staff Writer

BIG SKY – Consulting firm Logan Simpson was chosen to implement the community strategic plan at the Big Sky Resort Area District meeting Nov. 14; an update on the down payment assistance program and Meadowview property was given; and the board discussed the statewide resort tax summit held in Big Sky on Nov. 30.

After an interview process with three bidders, which responded to the board’s request for proposal to develop and implement a community-wide strategic plan for Big Sky, Logan Simpson, a firm that specializes in community planning, won the overwhelming favor of those involved in the interview process. With offices in Boise, Idaho, and Salt Lake City—as well as various other locations throughout the West—the firm stood out for its experience, as well as an innovative and viable approach that is expected to involve the whole community.

“We were particularly impressed with their approach to engaging the community and their enthusiasm for the project,” resort tax board Vice Chair Steve Johnson said.

Along with having the best understanding of Big Sky as a mountain resort community, Logan Simpson offered the most robust plan to reach all segments of the local population using varied communication mediums, such as texting, that would allow the voices of younger and less time-rich populations to be heard.

“They really go out of their way to make this accessible to everybody in the community,” said Buz Davis, who recently replaced Jamey Kabisch as secretary of the board. “The quality of this work is going to depend on the quality of participation that we get from the community.”

As Big Sky grows and changes, the resort tax board’s role has potential to significantly transform as well. In determining the function they will play in the area going forward, the resort tax board wants the community as a whole to ultimately make the decision, resulting in a strategic plan to direct the board moving forward.

Logan Simpson is currently working with the city of Bozeman to update its comprehensive plan, the town of Jackson and Teton County in Wyoming, Salt Lake County on an update to the general plan for the Wasatch canyons, and many more.

As part of the housing update, Laura Seyfang, the newly appointed program director of the HRDC’s Big Sky Community Housing Trust, introduced herself to the resort tax board and shared that the $100,000 in appropriations set aside for the down payment assistance program had not yet been used.

To date, the program has had only two applicants, both of whom were not qualified due to their level of earnings and other factors. Seyfang partially credited the low interest to a lack of broadcasting the program and for whom it was designed. The housing trust has developed a communication plan to clarify that the program isn’t exclusively for people considering purchasing a unit in the subsidized Meadowview development under construction, but for anyone who meets eligibility standards, Seyfang explained.

As for the Meadowview project, Seyfang said the first units will be completed by April, despite construction delays. Phase one of the project will include three studios and 15 two-bedroom units, each with its own single-car garage.

Arranged as duplexes, the two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom units will be 1,001 square feet, while the studios will be 350 square feet, according to Big Sky Resort’s Director of Real Estate and Development Brian Wheeler, who is also on the advisory council of the housing trust.

Seyfang announced that 32 individuals were interested in purchasing Meadowview units and looked like they would qualify, after first participating in eight hours of home-buyer assistance classes and a homeowner counseling session with the HRDC. Both the down payment assistance program and Meadowview applications require these steps.

The second phase of the Meadowview construction likely won’t be completed until the end of 2019.

The resort tax board also discussed the third annual resort tax summit, which will take place on Nov. 30 from 2-5 p.m. in the Big Sky Resort Area District office. The summit gathers representatives from Montana resort tax areas and communities including Gardiner, Red Lodge, Virginia City, West Yellowstone and Whitefish. The goal is to share ideas, successes and challenges as a means of being resources to one another, according to the Big Sky Resort Area District website.

As of the Nov. 14 meeting, the majority of representatives from around the state were going to call in to the meeting, but board members intended to reach out and encourage more to attend the summit in person.