Road abandon 'No'
Gallatin County Commission denies petition to abandon Big Sky roadways
Headed south towards Firelight Meadows on Ousel Falls Road it’s easy to overlook Streamside Way, an unassuming road that leads up to a mountainous residential development known as Greathorn Ranch. Likely, not many passersby opt to turn left and head up the hill. But according to complaints by home and landowners in the area, people, mostly uninvited, do find their way onto these quiet roadways.
In the summer of 2017, owners within the Greathorn and Big EZ neighborhoods came to the Gallatin County Commissioners with a request to abandon several roads within the development, citing issues with poachers, trespassers, traffic and illegal bonfires.
Commissioners looked into the request, touring the area in April 2018, and in late November at their weekly meeting they heard arguments from abandonment detractors and supporters.
JeNelle Johnson and Fred Orgas, fulltime residents of Grey Drake neighborhood, near the Greathorn neighborhood, sent a letter to the commissioners urging them not to move forward with abandonment. Their main concern was safety – going through Greathorn and Big EZ would be a potential route for them in the case a wildfire blocked them from their other escape route.
“Privatizing roads could cost lives in the event of a natural disaster in our area,” Johnson and Orgas’ letter stated, continuing on to note that they too have experienced trespassing in their 16-lot neighborhood, but alert their property manager and neighbors when issues arise.
Attorney John Glover, representing the Jacobs family, landowners of a 160-acre Greathorn Ranch tract at the end of Streamside Way, attended the meeting and spoke to the commissioners about his client’s concerns.
“For all the reasons presented in the application, safety, security, prevention of trespass, the Jacobs family… fully supports this petition to abandon.” Addressing access concerns, Glover stated that his clients had secured private easements for access and utilities to their property. He then revisited the safety concern. “Kelly is often at the residence there by herself, and it’s pretty remote, it’s the end of the road. As Alana (a previous attorney that spoke to the commission, representing other property owners) has said, law enforcement response, they do the best they can, but there are trespass issues, poaching issues, it’s difficult.”
Hearing both sides of the debate, the commissioners decided not to go forward with abandonment. Commissioner Steve White said he would not support the motion made by Chair Joe Skinner to approve the request.
“I think this is just a way to create a gated subdivision after that fact,” said White, “I don’t think we’ve done that, that I can remember… in the 14 years that I’ve been doing this, that we’ve granted a subdivision potential to gate their community.”
White acknowledged the residents’ issues with trespassing, and hunting issues, but chalking those up to owning land in Montana, continuing, “I don’t think abandoning the road is the way to go to handle those situations.”
Commissioner Don Seifert agreed with White, citing subdivision regulations which mandate these roads are dedicated to public use. “I realize there are problems up there… but those are problems with growth, there are ways to deal with those outside abandoning the road,” he said.
Skinner also concurred, “Certainly a solution to things like poaching, bonfires and things like that, there’s only one solution I’m hearing, and it’s that if we approve this resolution today there’s going to be gates everywhere,” he said, noting that when the subdivision was originally approved there was an agreement that there would be publicly dedicated, privately maintained roads. “This is an after the fact privatization of those roads and potentially gated subdivision.”
There may not be much to do for the public on these roadways, but folks looking to take a “joy ride” to an out-of-the-way part of Big Sky can rest assured they’ve got every right to do so on Great Horn Road.