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News in Brief: Sept. 14, 2018

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BSCO begins VIP Passport fundraising campaign

Tickets on sale to win year-long prizes


The Big Sky Community Organization recently launched their VIP Passport fundraiser which will run through Nov. 15 and gives participants a chance to win thousands of dollars’ worth of prizes.

The goal is to reach $10,000 through the sale of raffle tickets, and at the end of the campaign, one lucky person will win a collection of prizes redeemable throughout the year. These include a winter parking pass, on-snow ski valet, a summer mountain bike haul pass at Big Sky Resort, a $100 gift card to Buck’s T-4 Lodge, one entry into the 2019 Big Sky Biggie mountain bike race, 10 free yoga classes at Santosha Wellness Center, and many more.

Funds from the VIP Passport campaign will be used by the BSCO to build the organizational capacity that is needed to carry out the community’s 10-year Master Plan for Big Sky’s parks and trails, which includes the construction of 5 miles of new trails by summer 2019; acquiring 3.5 additional acres of parkland, and further expanding recreational programming.

“Thank you to the community, because BSCO couldn’t do any of it without their support and enthusiasm,” said Sara Marino, BSCO’s community development manager.

Visit or call (406) 993-2112 to learn more.

School district looks to spearhead affordable housing for staff


BIG SKY – The Big Sky School District board’s teacher housing committee is engaging in preliminary discussions to develop a plan and funding mechanism to provide housing for district staff. The committee is currently researching how other school districts have provided housing for their teachers.

“As a community, we all know that [housing] needs to be addressed, but we really feel like things have been moving … not very quick with addressing this in the community,” BSSD Superintendent Dustin Shipman said in a Sept. 11 school board meeting. “So, we’re going to get together to try to really be aggressive, to have the school district take the lead on that, at least for school employees.”

Shipman told EBS on Sept. 12 that the lack of housing contributes to a turnover rate slightly higher than that of other Montana school districts. He said that employees are willing to commute three to five years before the position is no longer desirable.

This spring, the district applied for the Housing for Rural School Districts Research Projects Grant, which would have allowed them to partner with the Montana State University School of Architecture to build a quality, low-cost dwelling between 400 and 1,000 square feet. The grant was awarded to the school district of Augusta, Montana, requiring BSSD to find another avenue for supporting its staff.

Once the committee has gathered enough information about housing option ideas from other school districts, they will bring a comprehensive plan and funding mechanism before the school board.

Madison County commissioners approve Moonlight development plan


BIG SKY – At a Sept. 11 meeting in Virginia City, the Madison County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve Lone Mountain Land Company’s 10-year overall development plan with the recommended conditions laid out by the Madison County Planning Board during an Aug. 27 meeting.

The most contentious part of the proposal for conservation groups was altering the development plan for the Moonlight Territory Reserve, acreage west of Jack Creek Road and north of the golf course that, in the 2007 plan, was set aside as 19, 160-acre ranch parcels to offset increased development in other areas of club property.

The approval of Lone Mountain Land Company’s revised plan allows the developer to repurpose three of those ranch lots for the development of 84 housing units.

During mediation between LMLC and conservationist groups, compromises were reached, including securing conservation easements, establishing a recreation plan, and designating an enforcement officer to educate and monitor property owners living in the wildland-urban interface.

Madison County Planning Director Charity Fechter explained that the conservation easements are required to be placed on the ranch lots within five years of ODP approval, and that they would be in perpetuity, prohibit further subdivision, include designated building/disturbance areas, and prohibit multi-unit rental developments.

Moonlight Territory has not yet been developed, though two 160-acre properties have been sold. Fechter told EBS that the ODP is a 10-year plan and the Moonlight Territory will likely be among the last land developed; and the numbers approved are the limit, not necessarily the exact number of units that will be constructed.

The plan also details the addition of 1,651 residential units, 270,000 square feet of commercial space, an 80-room five-star hotel, dorm-style employee housing, and two new chairlifts for residential access.

Lee Enterprises closes Missoula Independent alt-weekly paper

MISSOULA (AP) – Lee Enterprises has shut down the Missoula Independent nearly 1 1/2 years after buying the alternative weekly newspaper.

Lee Regional Human Relations Director Jim Gaasterland told Independent staff in a message Sept. 11 the company closed the newspaper that day and to schedule an appointment to retrieve any personal belongings.

Lee bought the Independent in April 2017 from Matt Gibson, who became the general manager for the Lee-owned Missoulian, Ravalli Republic and Independent.

Gibson said in a story posted by the Missoulian Sept. 11 that the Independent was losing money and was not financially sustainable.

The Independent’s staff unionized in April. The Missoula Independent Union said it rejected an Aug. 30 Lee proposal to cut three-quarters of the alt-weekly’s staff.

The Missoulian reports that the Independent began publishing in 1991 and was distributed across three western Montana counties.

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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