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Making it in Big Sky: Big Sky Owners Association

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The BSOA board convenes at a 2018 meeting. The current chair of the BSOA board is Eric Ossorio and there are nine board members. PHOTO COURTESY OF BSOA

By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Big Sky’s largest and oldest homeowner’s association, Big Sky Owners Association, was formed in 1971 and seated its first Board of Directors in 1973. Early on in Big Sky’s history, BSOA served as the main governing body of the area. Today, BSOA serves to preserve, protect and enhance property values in Big Sky.

Some of the services BSOA provides include winter road maintenance, streetlights, speed control road signs and architectural review among many other functions. BSOA oversees over 2,300 properties spread across 8,000 acres spanning both Gallatin and Madison counties. There are nine people on the Board of Directors supported by a full-time staff that runs the organization. 

The current Executive Director is Suzan Scott, a fifth generation Montanan who grew up in the state. According to Scott, both sides of her mother’s family are fourth generation Bozemanites and growing up she spent many summers and Christmas holidays in Gallatin Valley. She returned to Big Sky for the third time in 2012 after graduating from Montana State University to work for BSOA.

Explore Big Sky sat down with Scott to learn about the history of BSOA and the organization’s current role in the community.

Explore Big Sky: What do you do as Executive Director of BSOA?

Suzan Scott: “I oversee the programs, projects and staffing, as well as administer directives from the board of directors. We have nine people on the board of directors, and the BSOA is structured like a municipality. You have the board of directors performing the same positions as a city commissioner or county commissioner, they’re elected positions. Then you have the administrator, and then you have the staff to implement all of those directives. BSOA does the public services within the jurisdiction, those are the types of things that we oversee on a daily basis, whether that is enforcement of our covenants and governing documents or programs and projects that benefit our members and secondarily benefit the community.”

EBS: As Big Sky’s largest HOA, what is your current role in the community? 

SS: “Our primary purpose is to support our membership but the BSOA still looks to provide a leadership role within the community and to contribute to the betterment of the community.”

EBS: What programming and events does BSOA organize?

SS: “One major thing that we do is the architectural oversight review of construction within the BSOA. If somebody is building a single-family home or a multi-family home, we review it for architectural purposes, the aesthetics of that construction plan, as well as the landscaping and the roads and driveways leading to the structure. This is to ensure that there are no pink houses, and everything is architecturally similar and consistent with the rest of the neighborhood. The zoning of the construction in Big Sky has already been implemented by the county, once they go to the county then they come back to the BSOA to submit plans of their construction and then we review that.”

EBS: What makes BSOA different from other owners associations?

SS: “We are very unique. When I first became the Executive Director, like my predecessor, I researched other HOAs to see how other HOAs do it. Since we’re unincorporated there’s just not anybody really like us in the United States. Generally the HOAs operate under a municipality, so we’re very unique, and we’re very large for an HOA as well. We cover 8,000 acres and we’re close to 2,400 properties. We have about 70 sub-associations and condo associations and subdivisions underneath us. We’re the master association and then we have those existing sub associations, condo associations and subdivisions that we oversee.”

EBS: How does BSOA partner with other organizations in Big Sky?

SS: “We partner with Big Sky County Water & Sewer District, we have also partnered with Big Sky Community Organization in the past, and somewhat with the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. I anticipate we will be partnering with the Gallatin River Task Force on a pond project. We own the Silver Bow ponds in back of the Silver Bow Condominium Association, as well as Little Coyote Pond across from the community park. For years we’ve been trying to dredge that out and make that into a viable fishing pond, it continues to silt in, and because of state requirements, as well as federal requirements, we haven’t dredged that and made that into a fishing pond yet. However, we have been working with Big Sky County Water & Sewer District on that. We anticipate to also work with the Gallatin river Task Force on collaborating there as well. The Big Sky Chapel is interested in sharing a parking lot for that purpose for recreation and they’re planning to expand their parking lot. There are lots of ways that we can partner and cooperate with various organizations within Big Sky.”

EBS: Tell me about the transition of BSOA away from being a quasi-municipality?

SS: “We were the only game in town, in 1971 we were created by Chet Huntley as a quasi-municipality and since then Big Sky has grown so Town Center is outside of BSOA, Yellowstone Club is outside of us and Moonlight Basin and Spanish Peaks. As the community continues to grow our jurisdiction remains the same. However, the percentage of area that we cover and the number of residents and properties that we oversee declined. Town Center wasn’t there when we first were created, neither was Big Sky County Water & Sewer District … BSOA started up the Big Sky Community Organization because we needed trails and recreation. We were very closely tied to the resort as well, many of the representatives from the resort were on the board. As I understand it, we got Big Sky Resort Area District going as well. There was a natural resource council that we started so we’ve been integral in expanding and assisting the growth of the community in that way.”

EBS: How has BSOA’s role in the community changed over the years? 

SS: “Within the last 49 years, BSOA’s role has changed somewhat but our mission has remained the same. When the resort and Big Sky were first developed as an unincorporated area, BSOA was created as the pseudo-municipality for the Big Sky community in 1971. Since then, BSOA has been instrumental in creating many of the organizations that assist in governing the area today. Also, as Big Sky grows, the percentage of the area that BSOA governs becomes smaller. For instance, Town Center, Yellowstone Club, Moonlight and Spanish Peaks are all outside the BSOA jurisdiction.”

EBS: What is the best business advice you have ever received?

SS: “Expect the best, prepare for the worst, capitalize on what comes.”

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