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Tell me, Tallie: Big Sky’s build-out whereabouts

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By Tallie Lancey EBS Columnist

My father often said, “Life is a series of plateaus.” As an idealistic teen, the concept of an indefinite string of flat stalls didn’t jive with my unbridled optimism. Over time, I discerned his meaning: success is best achieved incrementally. I wanted to get from “here to there” in lightning speed, skipping steps if need be. He encouraged me to take my time.

I’ve ruminated upon this lesson as I observe Big Sky’s growth of late. Amidst rapid building, building, building, are we skipping steps? Or to put it differently, if Big Sky is only half built-out and, to some, is starting to feel crowded, where exactly is the rest of all of this building going to be placed?

Forecasting the maximum capacity of Big Sky’s development is a hot topic. New stoplight, new commercial buildings, new high-speed lifts, new construction on your neighbor’s formerly vacant lot you wish you’d purchased years ago. Growth is happening whether you like it or not. But where, when and how are difficult to monitor for most of us.

Big Sky’s development plans have been well documented in this newspaper. As a quick re-cap, there are approximately 1,100 units left at Moonlight, several hundred in the Canyon on land that has yet to be subdivided, several hundred units at Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, and another several hundred in the Town Center. Here and there, other developable parcels exist.

All told, approximately 2,500 units can be built in the greater Big Sky area according to existing zoning regulations in Gallatin County and awarded entitlements in Madison County. That is inclusive of single family, hotels, and commercial elements. Given our existing year-round population of about 2,500-3,500 people, depending on whom you ask, Big Sky is not even close to its maximum capacity. One day in the future, this place we call home could double in size. Hence the notion that Big Sky, as a relatively new community, is half built-out.

Those of us who live and work in Big Sky find ourselves marveling—using both positive and negative connotations—at the velocity and volume of growth. I often hear people express the sentiment that no one else should be able to move to Big Sky. Of course, we cannot and should not close the door behind us. While being territorial is instinctual, Big Sky is too wonderful to keep all to ourselves. Thus, we’re left wondering if our legal maximum capacity is the best scenario for the sustainability of our community. Will our unincorporated village voice its land use planning concerns?

As we watch a handful of developers exercise their right to build, we have to consider the practical, physical and environmental restraints of this region like floodplains, cliffs, sensitive wildlife habitat, soil conditions, slope variations and infrastructure of all kinds.

As we near Father’s Day, I’d like to give a shout out to my late father for teaching me that we can achieve much when we take things one step at a time.

Are you wondering why something is particularly unique to our community? You want to know and I’m eager to learn. This column commits to answering your burning questions about why Big Sky exists the way it does. Ask me at

Tallie Lancey is a broker with Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty and serves on the boards of Big Sky Community Organization, Top Shelf Toastmasters, and the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center.

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