Ciara Wolfe addressed commissioners and a full crowd during public comment at the joint commission meeting held Nov. 6. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

The moving parts of Big Sky

Public comment during the Joint Commission Meeting touched on key issues

The Nov. 6 Madison and Gallatin Counties Joint Commission Meeting saw numerous speakers during the public comment portion of the meeting, with a number of key issues and opportunities addressed. In many ways it was rapid fire – one speaker after another – all with quick and notable observations about the goings-on in Big Sky and pertinent events around the state. 

Ciara Wolfe, CEO of Big Sky Community Organization, representing the advisory committee that led the community visioning plan requested that both counties accept the plan and provide guidance on how best to integrate it “into existing or developing growth policies for each county, so that we can represent the desires of our citizens living in Big Sky through your growth policies.” 

County commissioners spoke positively about the plan and the hard work behind it and stated they would put planning directors in touch with people in Big Sky. 

Kevin Germain, chairman of the Resort Tax board updated commissioners and the crowd on resort tax happenings around the state. “West Yellowstone passed the renewal of 3% resort tax by a vote of 88 percent and enacted their 1% job-specific option [made available from this last legislative session] by a vote of 68%,” he said. He also noted that Virginia City passed their 1% by over an 80% margin. 

“I know both West and Virginia City are very appreciative of the efforts and the support we had from both county commissions as we worked on legislation –  as well as the support in this room,” he said. 

Germain spoke to the importance of the community visioning document before moving on to discussing the open space levy that recently passed for Gallatin County. 

“The last time we looked at the tax base for Gallatin County… 12% came from the Big Sky portion of your county. We would really love to see some of those dollars returned to this community,” and he specified the money would be nice for the BSCO parks and trail efforts and Montana Land Reliance for conservation efforts. He requested some Big Sky representation on the open space board.  

He ended by bringing-up Jack Creek Road, which was an agenda item. 

“It clearly came out in the visioning process that this community is concerned about the one way in and out of Big Sky,” he said and requested county support in improving the county portion of the road. 

Big Sky Fire Department chief William Farhat briefly addressed commissioners and the crowd, thanking Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department captain Jim Anderson for his efforts to help with the 911 infrastructure. 

Steve Anderson representing SepticNET spoke, introducing the on-site wastewater treatment company and noting the technology was developed in similar conditions in Montana and approved by MT DEQ as a Level 2 system. 

“We are the most efficient onsite wastewater treatment available in the state of Montana, especially for flows under 5,000 gallons a day,” he said. “We just wanted to introduce ourselves and our technology and make sure that if the need arises for something like this– at least you have our information.”  

David Kack, representing the Big Sky Transportation District, began by referencing the visioning plan, saying that according to the plan, “transportation between Bozeman and Big Sky continues to be a concern to folks.” He offered some data from FY 2019: while the number of rides within Big Sky was down 3.6% from the previous year, the service that connects Big Sky and Bozeman was up 5.4%. 

“We gave the most rides ever on that service – the Link Express, just under 89,000 rides between Bozeman and Big Sky,” he said. 

The winter schedule is out on the website, he said, and begins Nov. 25. 

The Transportation District is seeking land for a bus barn so there can be a charging station for a shift to electric busses. The district is also in need of a general manager. The district is still working on the petition to expand boundaries that were set in 1991 – when Big Sky was significantly smaller. 

Buz Davis spoke about his behavioral health analysis of Big Sky. He and a crew of four interviewed key informants in the industry – more than 60 people will be interviewed by completion.

“I’m reaching out to Madison County in the next week. We are very close to finishing our report,” he said. He then requested an opportunity to meet with each commissioner and was assured that would not be a problem. 

In order to combat reader fatigue from the wealth of information provided at the joint commission meeting, the Lone Peak Lookout will be publishing separate stories in the weeks ahead.

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