Building Big Sky

Building forum speaks to rapid growth

The May 16 recent Big Sky Community Building Forum hosted by the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce spoke to rampant and unprecedented growth for Big Sky in the next few years, but with a level of strategic planning behind it. The 200-seat theater at Lone Peak Cinema was at around three-fourths capacity occupancy for the three -hours of presentations.


The overaching themE fFrom the area resorts to the Big Sky School District to NorthWestern Energy, Big Sky is outpacing many other areas in Montana with regard to growth and demand for strategic planning.infrastructure.


Organizations discussing development and as well as improvements includeding Big Sky Community Housing Trust, Big Sky Community Organization, Big Sky Medical Center, Gallatin County Planning and Zoning, Big Sky Resort, Big Sky School District, Big Sky Town Center, Lone Mountain Land Company, Moonlight Basin and Northwestern Energy were in attendance.


Groups are aware that solutions need to be future oriented, the phrase, in perpetuity, which means forever,  “In Perpetuity” surfaced twice during the meeting. Moonlight Basin vice president Kevin Germain said, that while expansion and building is underway, one of the goals of the organization is for 86 percent of Moonlight Basin property to be protected in perpetuity. “If all of our plans come to fruition, then 86 percent of that land (Moonlight Basin) will be protected in perpetuity.”



Big Sky Community Organization (BSCO) chief executive director Ciara Wolfe discussed how the town center park, recently acquired from the Simkins family by way of donations, will exist in Big Sky “in perpetuity”.


Renderings were in abundance as visions of the future of Big Sky surfaced and speakers discussed the visioning, challenges and excitement they have for their projects.


When all comes to fruition, the Big Sky two years from now will look far different than it does is today.


Spanish Peaks


Spanish Peaks Mountain Club is looking to at reclaimed water to address the water shortage and confronting the shortage of tradesmen for building by way of the Highlands – 60 residences built in Idaho and brought in with “no sacrifice of quality,” Jon Olsen, vice president of development for Spanish Peaks Resort said. Inspiration Point, , the club’s first townhouse duplex/triplex development comprised of 16 total buildings and 40 residences, is slated.


Lone Mountain Land Company

Dominick Bayard, vice president of planning and development for Lone Mountain Land Company spoke to the need for a sustainable economy.


The Wilson Hotel celebrates its grand opening on June 21 after having a soft opening for with the Lone Peak High School graduation party. Adjacent to Wilson Hotel is the Plaza Lofts project, which Bayard explained was designed to look like an old mill style building converted to lofts.

Among other things, the property will include a sushi restaurant, a boutique and two penthouses. Substantial completion of that project will occur in late April. The company is working on plans for several dozen more projects, including “Building 4” in town center. , which is across the street from Lotus Pad. Employee housing has also been a priority as well and has included company acquisition of the River Rock Lodge for WHOSE employees and Big Sky Lofts in partnership with developer Scott Altman, that will consist of 40 employee housing units for fulltime residents/workforce housing. The project is currently delayed due to lack of road access until until the over $10 million TIGER Investment Grant-FUNDED  for road improvements along Lone Mountain Trail are is completed (a project is completed… a grant isn’t completed).


Moonlight Basin


Germain spoke of a water deal with Jumping Horse Ranch as well as a new water reclamation facility. Once completed, Moonlight Basin “will have the highest treated effluent in the state of Montana,” he said.


Moonlight Basin entered into a partnership with One&Only Resorts, a company with  – with five-star luxury resorts around the world in places like the Maldives, Australia, Dubai, Los Cabos and South Africa. T It , this will be the first One&Only in the United States. Moonlight Basin is working on a deal with Big Sky Resort for lifts to serve the One&Only rResort. (WHEN? According to Germain.



NorthWestern Energy


Jim Krusemark, manager of substation operations for NorthWestern Energy, spoke of building the new substation in Big Sky, citing explosive growth as driving the need.  He said that Wwhile most communities in Montana have organic growth at about 1 percent annually, Big Sky is the fastest growing area in Montana at about 7 or 8 percent, according to Krusemark.. The community has been on NorthWestern Energy’s radar for improvements for some time.


“Voltage was getting to a point it could no longer support the load up here,” Krusemark said, explaining that the company realized the need for a substation between the meadow and Mountain Village. A two-year collaborative process was launched with a community group. Listening to that group’s request e request of the group for low profile design, they will cut into the hillside and construct a 20-foot decorative wall to hide the substation. The company is close to closing on a piece of property on Ridgeback Road to house the substation.


Big Sky Medical Center

Jason Smith, chief advancement officer, and Darci Bentson, chief administrative officer, for Bozeman Health spoke of the need for the medical center to adapt to population and tourist demands. Summer incidents currently outpace winter with “bucket listers” not anticipating the problems altitude can present. Overall, the Big Sky Medical Center has seen a 21% increase in emergency room visits from 2017 to 2018, according to Smith.  Summer incidents currently outpace winter with “bucket listers” not anticipating the problems altitude can present. One such step in addressing the unique challenge of increased traffic in a rural area, is a partnership for Tele-Stroke, which allows for medical facilities in rural communities to have access to specialists in dealing with strokes.

Smith and Bentson also spoke of how the organization is taking big steps in addressing some of the unique behavioral health challenges in Big Sky. They expect the hospital will invest about $400k in charity care in Big Sky.


Big Sky Community Housing Trust


Program director of Big Sky Community Housing Trust, Laura Seyfang, spoke of how housing has hit a crisis level. She said 50 percent of workers are commuting up the canyon when 40 percent would prefer to live in Big Sky. Airbnb and the shift toward short-term rentals created an unstable market for the local workforce. The service industry is having a hard time providing a quality experience because they can’t keep their employees, she said. There is a need to increase housing units by 250-300 in the next five years and make sure local residents are in 30 percent of those units.



Big Sky School District


Big Sky School District superintendent Dustin Shipman said the school anticipates an 82 percent increase in student body,  – which is unheard of. Keeping qualified teachers in the area despite the inaccessibility of affordable housing has been challenging. The recent Building Reserve Levy passed for $6600,000 for which will assist in funding  teacher housing in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.


Town Center


Ryan Hamilton, project manager for Town Center said the company is halfway built out with their properties, while had the remaining land has been platted for development. Some property has been rezoned and platting is being done now. A new residential project will occur on both sides of Ousel Falls Road. According to Hamilton, Simkins-Hallin began early planning for Town Center in the 1980’s.  The company’s first residential project for Town Center was completed in 2003, the first commercial project was completed in 2005.  Town Center is currently about 55 percent built out.


Larger stories will be surfacing in the coming weeks that will discuss efforts to address growth by Gallatin County Planning and Zoning as well as Big Sky Community Organization.

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