By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Senior Editor
BIG SKY – Cinco de Mayo is cause for celebration, but as of Explore Big Sky press date April 30, it was unclear whether the Big Sky community would be celebrating that night. A consulting agency working on a local housing development plan is set to give its final recommendation for a solution to the area’s housing woes.
Since last November, Economics and Planning Systems has been meeting with local businesses, community leaders and looking at ways in which Big Sky can overcome a middle-class housing shortfall 40 years in the making.
The consultancy’s final plan comes after more than a year of community meetings and surveys put together by the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, as well as an explosive growth in high-end real estate sales and construction, while lower-end housing was snatched up leaving paltry inventory.
Last year, the Big Sky Resort Tax Board appropriated $80,000 for the chamber to hire EPS to provide insight into the area’s housing crisis. This year, the chamber is requesting $165,000 in resort tax monies to fund “phase two” of the project, according to its 2014 resort tax application, submitted to the RTB on April 12.
“Based on EPS and without making legislative change or talking about incorporation, [this money] will be used to keep the momentum going,” said the chamber’s executive director Kitty Clemens. “Finding a piece of land is the first step, and part of that money would be used as a security deposit for the land.”
This land would be used for what Clemens calls “workforce housing,” and will apply more to year-round local employees rather than seasonal workers, she said. However, local land developers hold the key to providing this land, and the community will need to come together to solve this issue, she added.
“There will be a recommendation people won’t like such as developer fees or land dedication,” said Clemens, referring in part to EPS’ list of other resort community solutions. “There will be people who say, ‘We oppose this.’ And then it becomes a conversation between the community and developers.
“We’re really talking about community building and putting a plan in place to help people living here year-round and who will become our future leaders,” Clemens said.
The housing meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 5, on the lower level of the Big Sky Chapel. It is open to the public.
Access all Big Sky resort tax applications at resorttax.org.