What is public could turn private
A petition to abandon portions of Streamside Way and Great Horn Road made its way to the Gallatin County Commission in late March and a viewing committee comprised of Gallatin County Commissioner Don Seifert and Charlotte Mills with the county clerk and recorder’s office came to Big Sky recently to take a look at the roads. They’ll make a recommendation, which will be presented to the commission at one of its regular weekly meetings. The exact date is to be determined.
The roads in question are located to the south of Town Center and access several low-density subdivisions. A successful abandonment would allow the residents of subdivisions located along the roadways to install a gate to keep unwanted traffic out.
Gallatin County Planner Tim Skop voiced his concerns over the petition at the March 27 commission meeting.
“The county planning department fundamentally objects to this process to abandon the roads,” he told the commissioners, citing plats he entered into record that clearly establish the roads are not private, but instead dedicated to the public. “The petition indicates that they’re private. I disagree with that,” he said.
Skop recalled when the subdivisions on Streamside Way and Great Horn Road were originally platted, saying, “Of specific interest is the K-Ranch… where two variances were denied to the subdivision regulation standards regarding cul-de-sac length and second access for the K-Ranch subdivision.”
Skop continued, “The commission at that time denied those variances and forced the current configuration of the roads that are now being requested to be abandoned.”
Also at question is whether the roads even qualify as county roads at all. Skop said roads like Gooch Hill and Stucky Road are examples of county roads, while Streamside Way and Great Horn Road are actually interior subdivision roads, created through a subdivision review process.
“They’re dedicated to the public, but they’re not county roads, so the county abandonment process does not apply,” noted Skop, adding, “The appropriate process to adjust, abandon or even consider this is through the subdivision review process. These aren’t old roads. They aren’t old subdivisions. They’re largely less than 10 years old. We should follow that process if we want to abandon them.”
Attorney Alanah Griffith, who represents many of the landowners along the roadways, said she believes her clients’ abandonment request is the appropriate way to move forward.
“They are county roads, they’re dedicated to the public and the county has the ability to oversee the roads,” said Griffith during the March 27 commission meeting. “There are a lot of different issues with these roads right now… Whatever the appropriate process is, we’re happy to do whatever is needed.”
The abandonment petition states, “Because of the increased use of the roads to trespass on private roads, their cost to maintain the roads has increased. The owners would like to reduce this cost by limited access to those who actually are using the road legally… Some increased traffic is due to hunters who are using the public road to access the owners’ private land for hunting. The hunters do not have permission. However, this seems to matter little to them.”
Big EZ Ranch Estates Homeowners Association President David Wells wrote to the Great Horn Ranch board of directors requesting the installation of an access gate at the eastern entrance of the ranch, because without one, “unauthorized individuals access the Big EZ Estates, the Gallatin Preserves, and private roads and developments by circumventing the existing gate on Ousel Falls View Road…” The letter cites conflicts resulting from Big EZ members stopping trespassing parties, which could potentially lead to violence, and unauthorized access could lead to property damage and theft.
William Schwab of the Gallatin Preserve also wrote a similar letter in favor of a gate, citing dirt bikers, hunting without permission and the taking of trees at Christmas.
View the petition and its supporting documents, and listen to a recording of the March 27 commission meeting on the Gallatin County Commission’s webpage. The commission meets Tuesdays at 9 a.m. and all meetings are streamed and recorded.