Resort Tax local updates

BASE opens March 13, Flatiron before Madison County in Feb., and 100 SFE increase for workforce housing

Corrected and updated 2.25.2022 

Resort Tax local updates 

BASE opens March 13, Flatiron before Madison County in Feb., and 100 SFE increase for workforce housing 

CAP: No photos 

By John Stember 

reporter@lonepeaklookout.com 

The board members and staff for the Resort Tax sat down for their monthly meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 9, to discuss projects in the community, upcoming developments like Flatiron, and the new Gallatin Canyon Water and Sewer District. 

The Resort Tax, which started in 1992, is a 4% tax on all luxury goods and services not essential to life in Big Sky. It was created as a way to deal with the increased pressure on services and infrastructure from tourism; many mountain towns across the West use a similar model. Over 800 businesses are required to pay the tax in the Big Sky Resort Area District (BSRAD). 

The Resort Tax team is made up of four staff and five board members. Board members serve a four year term and must live within the Big Sky Resort Area District. Daniel Bierschwale is the executive director and Sarah Bletcha is the chair of the board. 

Other board members include Ciara Wolfe, Steve Johnson, Kevin Germain and Grace Young. Below is a series of updates on topics discussed at the Feb. 9 BSRAD meeting. BIG SKY POST OFFICE 

Due to the inadequate amount of space and population growth in Big Sky, the local contractor for the Big Sky Post Office, Al Malinowski, has repeatedly tried to engage in a discussion with the United States Postal Service (USPS) on how to receive federal designation for Big Sky’s post office over the last year. Malinowski wants to see the post office in a larger space and ideally pass on the contract to USPS. 

“It feels like we’re pushing a big boulder up a mountain, but we continue to do it and I think we’re starting to get some progress,” said Executive Director Daniel Bierschwale, who has worked with Malinowski to find a solution to the problem. 

The goal is to address the local post office’s needs and ideally get the federal government to take over the local contract. Malinowski and Bierschwale will know more after an upcoming meeting. 

ELEVATE BIG SKY

The Resort Tax hosted a meeting recently between all the community foundations—Moonlight, Spanish Peaks, and the Yellowstone Club—to discuss how to work together and prioritize funding projects and philanthropy in the community. 

Spanish Peaks, Moonlight, and the Yellowstone Club Community Foundations contribute substantial amounts of money to the Big Sky community through grants every year. The Resort Tax team would like to work together with the major funding organizations, like the community foundations, to align priorities in Big Sky. 

FLATIRON DEVELOPMENT 

Representative Chris Leonard of Middle Fork Properties, LLC presented a 10-minute PowerPoint to the BSRAD board about the Flatiron development project proposed near the base of Thunderwolf chair lift and Lone Moose Meadows. 

“My goal is to make sure we are out in the community, that people know what we are doing, that we are making ourselves available,” said Leonard. 

This 473-acre project is a proposed community in Gallatin and Madison counties between Big Sky Resort and Big Sky Town Center. 

The property was purchased in 2019 and already approved for development by both counties, according to Leonard. The Flatiron team, led by Bozeman realtor Michael Schreiner of Middle Fork Properties LLC, assembled a group of international professionals to design the master plan. 

The development plans to build over 900 beds for workforce housing, create a mountain community open to the public, and maintain 75% open space on the property. 

As part of the original development, the Flatiron property contains a few potential water sources. They do not own the water rights yet, but they hope to offer the water to the Big Sky community. 

Flatiron’s specialists believe they have access to more water than the development needs based on hydraulic studies, according to White. The project is unlikely to go forward unless it can connect to the BSWSD. 

“There is the Lone Moose condominiums,” explained Leonard while looking at a photograph. “We are basically the land surrounding that.” Flatiron would add another 24 subdivisions to the property. 

Middle Fork Properties LLC is actively seeking capital partners for the project development for Flatiron, explained Leonard. 

“We believe that the best way to make sure that the right plan for this property was to have this plan approved with all the conditions that are attached to it, so that regardless of who ends up

making decisions on this project long term, the plan that the counties have approved, would be what is in place,” said Leonard. 

Gallatin County Planning Board approved the project in December with 66 conditions. The Madison County Planning Board will decide whether or not to approve the development proposal on Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. in Virginia City. 

BIG SKY RELIEF FUND 

After a pretty significant spike in COVID-19 cases in January, Big Sky Relief used up part of its reserve of free COVID-19 take-home tests for the spring. BSRAD, however, secured an additional number of tests to compensate. Gallatin County also reached out with additional tests available at the county level. 

With help from the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, free take-home COVID-19 tests are available to the community on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Chamber’s town center location. 

“These tests are for locals, they are not being handed out for visitors,” explained Bierschwale. Visitors, travelers, and symptomatic folks are encouraged to go to the clinic for COVID-19 testing. 

2022 BUSINESS REGISTRATION OVERVIEW 

“This is a reminder for the board and the community at large that one of the areas that Resort Tax focuses on is compliance. In order to ensure that we’re being fair and equitable across the community, we take the compliance of Resort Tax ordinances very seriously,” said Bierschwale. 

The registration process has become a useful tool for the Resort Tax to collect data, explained Bierschwale. In other words, BSRAD is using the registration process as an opportunity to get a baseline of data on the community. 

There are currently 707 businesses registered for Resort Tax and we are still waiting on 140 more, explained Bierschwale. At the 90 day mark, businesses will hear from the BSRAD legal counsel. 

“That's the point. Any business that transacts business within the area needs to register. It is not [only] businesses that are physically located in the resort area,” said board member Steve Johnson. 

COUNTY SUBCOMMITTEE 

The BSRAD staff are meeting monthly with commissioner Scott McFarland of Gallatin County and the new commissioner for Madison County, John Heckler, to figure out how funding should work for certain critical entities in Big Sky like public safety and transportation. 

BIG SKY FIRE DEPARTMENT

Chief Greg Megaard of the Big Sky Fire Department presented to the BSRAD board as part of a new initiative to get updates from important local entities in Big Sky. 

“It was our busiest year in demand for services for emergency response. For the first year, Big Sky fire broke over 1,000 emergency calls. We actually ended up with 1187 calls for 2021,” said Megaard. 

The fire department started to staff station two—up near Big Sky Resort—24/7 for the first time to address the increased call load and cut down on response time. 

Megaard also discussed local wildfire protection projects, like the camera on top of Lone Peak, to increase awareness about the danger of wildfire for the Big Sky community. The chief hopes to get a second camera up on Cinnamon Ridge and said the Yellowstone Club also plans to purchase another camera. 

BIG SKY TRANSPORTATION DISTRICT 

David Kack, the director of the Big Sky Transportation District, presented to the BSRAD board on staffing issues for drivers through Karst Stage. 

Kack explained ridership from Big Sky to Bozeman was up 19% in 2022 and up 13% locally within Big Sky. Most public transportation services are not available after 7-8 p.m. as well. Kack will be stepping away from his leadership position this spring and the Big Sky Transportation District is in the process of finding a replacement. 

“As the new Executive Director comes on board, public transportation it seems has been really focused on our workforce, to get them to and from work. Public transportation, if you look at a lot of these other resort communities, is actually a critical part of their infrastructure alongside water and sewer, housing for the local individuals who live there, to decrease the cost of living, to decrease the amount of traffic on the roads,” said board member Ciara Wolfe. 

“It’s important and I think we need to think outside the box of just being focused on workforce transportation,” added Wolfe. 

CANYON WATER AND SEWER DISTRICT 

Mace Magnold, the lead engineer for the Gallatin Canyon Water and Sewer District, explained the district formed in 2020 as a result of feasibility studies that BSRAD funded for $12 million in 2019. The original question was how do we get septic systems off this corridor, Magnold explained. 

The new water and district secured $2.75 million dollars of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), or COVID Stimulus Package, in the fall of 2021.

To learn more about the new water and sewer district in the canyon, go to gallatincanyonwsd.com. Most information is available in the project tab. The next meeting for the new district is on March 30 at 8 a.m. They plan to meet every other month. 

BIG SKY WATER AND SEWER DISTRICT 

The BSWSD increased their workforce housing allotment from 500 to 600 Single Family Equivalent (SFE) following a finding that determined workforce housing uses 20% more water-sewer capacity than normal hookups. 

“Essentially, the genesis of that was we looked at our connections that are truly workforce housing type connections and how much water-sewer capacity they used, and we found that on an SFE basis they are actually using more than the typical condo or home. It was a 20% increase and that’s the basis of going from 500 to 600 SFE,” said BSWSD general manager Ron Edwards. 

DEED RESTRICTION PROGRAM FROM BSCHT 

The Big Sky Community Housing Trust (BSCHT) is launching a new program in the next month that permanently restricts housing deeds in Big Sky. This limitation, which dictates how owners can use their homes, passes hands between owners in perpetuity. 

In an effort to create more affordable housing, the Housing Trust is suggesting a deed restriction program modeled after other mountain towns. “At least one occupant must work a minimum of 30 hours per week in Big Sky. The occupant can be the owner or tenant,” explained Executive Director Laura Seyfang. 

In response to the deed restriction, the Housing Trust will pay the homeowner 10-15% of the fair market value of the home. No short-term rentals will be allowed. The deed restriction program is modeled after a three-year project in Vail, Colorado. 

BSCHT hopes the program will create inventory strictly for residents, allow locals to purchase market-rate properties, and permanently preserve the community’s investment program in housing. 

BASE COMMUNITY CENTER OPEN DATES 

Chief Executive Officer Whitney Montgomery revealed the new BASE community center plans to host an open house on March 11-12 to see the building, learn about membership, and see what programs are offered. 

BASE will open to the public for the first time on Sunday, March 13, 100% staffed. A grand opening will occur later in the month to celebrate BASE. 

NEXT MEETING 

The next Resort Tax board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 9, at 9 a.m. at their office in Big Sky Town Center. These meetings are available to the public in person and virtually.

 

More Information

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