By Bay Stephens EBS Staff Writer

BIG SKY – In response to a proposal by Big Sky Community Organization Executive Director Ciara Wolfe at an Oct. 16 Big Sky Water and Sewer District board meeting, the district will allow a recreation facility in Town Center to connect to the local sewer system in exchange for a land swap, pending final approval.

If the board approves the agreement at its next meeting on Nov. 20, the district will gain a portion of parkland on the east end of the Big Sky Community Park, which is directly adjacent to the district’s water treatment plant. The cost of the plant’s inevitable expansion to meet rising water demands would be considerably less with this land available, avoiding the additional construction that expanding in other directions would require.

“From a business perspective, that land in itself is hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction benefit to the district,” board member Mike DuCuennois said.

In return, BSCO requested 40 SFEs—single-family equivalents—20 of which would be used for a recreation facility and park bathrooms on the 3.27-acre parcel in Town Center that the nonprofit is currently under contract to purchase. The Big Sky Community Organization requested the other 20 SFEs be set aside for an aquatic center, for which funds and land will eventually be procured.

Although the pool facility was an initial sticking point for the board, they came around to support the proposal, requesting that BSCO draft a purchase and sale agreement.

After trails, a public recreation facility was the highest priority item that Big Sky residents want to see realized, according to a community-wide survey that BSCO conducted two years ago. The organization has since raised $2 million to purchase the land encompassing Town Center park and the adjacent parking lot, which they determined was an ideal location for a rec center.

Aside from the school and the water and sewer district meeting room where the meeting was held, “there is not a single other location that is publicly available for use—owned by a public entity—in our community that has indoor space,” Wolfe said. “And we have well over six months of winter.”

Wolfe said the area’s many nonprofits would use the facility, and that through sustainable building practices such as LEED, the center would be good way to showcase Big Sky’s environmental ethics, sometimes overshadowed by the area’s growth.

The district board and BSCO agreed to view this transaction as a partnership in the interest of the community. Board President Paul “Packy” Cronin said the final review of the pool facility proposal would be for compliance and capacity, indicating that, if BSCO found the funding and site for the pool facility, the district would award the reserved SFEs. The review and official decision on the permits for both projects will be made at the Nov. 20 district board meeting.