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Bozeman to Reconsider Historic District Regulations?

by Tim Hart

The City of Bozeman will pay $60,000 for an in depth study reviewing the effects of its Historic Conservation Overlay District on the local real estate market. There will be a meeting at 6 pm on Tuesday in City Hall to discuss Bozeman’s next steps.

The Historic Conservation Overlay district is in the heart of Bozeman and is designed to protect old historic structures that contribute to Bozeman’s look and culture. The district encompasses 3,000 properties in Bozeman.

If any of these 3,000 properties want to adjust, renovate or change the exterior appearance of their home, city planning needs to review and approve the changes. On average, the city deals with around 300 applicants a year.

The Overlay District was first enacted when 3 historic homes were demolished for a now closed Pizza Hut on Babcock Street. Since its enactment, the district has succeeded to preserve the historic character of Bozeman. Bozeman recently was honored as a top 100 location in the US for livability--and the city's character certainly affected that rating.

Now, Bozeman has grown concerned that they are over impacting home affordability in town. Each new application for approval takes time and money, not just from the property owner, but from the city as well, and therefore the taxpayers. The city and builders alike have tried to find alternatives to help lower home values in Bozeman. The district has also become a highly sought after location in town and the district has seen property values rise. Those values could also be rubbing off on nearby neighborhoods and even affecting all of Bozeman’s affordability.

Bozeman would like to find out whether this is the case or not. The study will make its final presentation to City Commissioners in September.

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/city/consultants-to-evaluate-bozeman-s-historic-preservation-regulations/article_e448c583-d28b-5985-9626-a458922612f0.html

 

I read a wonderful editorial written by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that discusses Bozeman’s overall health and how that connects into the city’s cultural and economic growth. The writer draws some positive conclusions between the amount of public trails available in the area and the city’s overall health.

According to a University of Wisconsin, the Gallatin County was the healthiest county in the state for the sixth year running. In another recent study, Headwaters Economics concluded that well developed trail systems highly impact a number of quality of life issues in any town, both economic and societal. Could they be related? The writer says yes, of course, and highlights that trails can provide a lot more to a town than just physical health.

Trails are considered a “high amenity asset” that benefits businesses, increases property values in the nearby area and promotes overall public health, according to the Headwaters Economics report. The Gallatin County leads the state in low unemployment, Bozeman’s technology industry continues to attract more and more workers to Bozeman, while single-family and multi-family properties alike have seen their values increase rapidly in the last year as well. These facts suggest that the study may not be too far off from reality.

Headwaters Economics has also released figures highlighting the Gallatin County’s economic and popular growth and have also suggested this might be linked to the high amount of public land in the area. Their reports fall in line with the author’s opinion, that the local trails around Bozeman have directly helped lead to the town’s continued growth and prosperity. For the writer, the trails are necessary—not a luxury—and the writer pointed to the 15 million dollar open space and trails bond that was passed in 2012 as evidence that most Bozemanites think similarly.

From a real estate perspective, having nearby activities within walking distance of any home can really add value to that home. When the activity is nature based, healthy, and of course, free, it can attract buyers who may not have looked in a certain neighborhood or street otherwise. Bozeman continues to be a very healthy, positive environment, so it is no surprise that people want to move to Bozeman.  The writer of the article concludes that one of Bozeman’s greatest assets is that people want to move to Bozeman, they don’t have to move to Bozeman. So long as Bozeman remains a “want” place and not a “have to” place, we should expect to continue seeing the growth and prosperity it has enjoyed in recent years.

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/opinions/editorials/no-accident-that-bozeman-stays-healthy/article_e3c2c0a5-2a48-58df-949f-f21275c36cbc.html

 

Bozeman School District Enrollment Increases

by Tim Hart

The Bozeman School District will be adding 170 more students next year, highlighting Bozeman and the surrounding area’s continued growth. Last year, Bozeman schools had their highest enrollment ever and it looks like the record won’t make it through the calendar year.

In addition to the 170 new students, administrators will hire 11 more teachers to better educate the additional students. In order to make those hires, the 2015 legislature will need to pass the public schools bill in April. Luckily, the bill dealing with inflation costs has already passed.

Elementary and middle schools will increase by 167 students next year. That is a 3.8% increase from the 2014 to 2015 school year when 4,321 students were enrolled in elementary and middle schools. The high school only added 3 new students. From a real estate perspective, the enrollment totals suggests that Bozeman is still very much a family town—and new families looking to move here, tend to make that move early. With the nearby schools, public lands and outdoor activities, its easy to see why Bozeman would be a big draw for young families looking to live in Bozeman for an extended time.

As enrollment increases, Bozemanites may have concerns that the quality of the education may be diluted. However, this year suggests otherwise. Bozeman High School was honored for its students high Advanced Placement Exam scores and ACT scores. The high school was also awarded two grants for studies in mental health and mathematics. Longfellow, one of the local elementary schools, won a department of education honor as a Blue Ribbon School.

The Bozeman School District still remains the gold standard for schools in the area. It is no wonder that more and more families move to Bozeman to educate their children in such a positive learning environment.

 

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/education/bozeman-schools-look-to-fund-growing-enrollment/article_b8d7b23e-41eb-5af5-b2e5-5f98078322d9.html

 

Montana High Tech Industry Expanding Rapidly

by Tim Hart

The High Tech and Manufacturing Industry is growing quickly in the state of Montana. The High Tech Business Alliance (HTBA), a conglomerate of high tech companies in the state of Montana, was surveyed by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) to diagnose the health of Montana’s high tech industry. Turns out, the state of the high tech industry isn’t just healthy, its skyrocketing.

According to the BBER report, the industry has accounted for a large amount of the total revenue and wages in Montana.

HTBA members grossed 632 million dollars in sales, which has helped them both raise their wages and take on additional employees.

These HTBA companies paid $139 million in pay roll. Employees, on average, have been earning twice the salary as those in other industries. Currently, they are averaging $50,702 a year. Even better, many of the HTBA members are planning on raising wages by 7% in 2015.

Over 2015, these companies hope to add 400 new jobs—a 15% increase. Some companies have projected their growth rates to be 8 to 10 times higher than the state’s overall economic growth rate.

From a real estate perspective, the most eye opening quote in the report described the reason why the industry may be booming. After reading the quote, it is easy to see a parallel in what is attracting both workers and new homebuyers to town.

"HTBA members find that Montana’s quality of life its lifestyle, the work life balance available here, the recreation opportunities, and the beauty of the landscape provides them a significant advantage in business."

The same qualities mentioned above are often top attractors in real estate as well. Usually, the same qualities of an area are attracting new workers and new homeowners.

Reports released earlier this year by the University of Montana and Headwaters Economics, has shown that growth in industries like the high tech industry, have put Gallatin County as the state’s leader in economic growth. The Headwaters Report suggested that the area’s growth had a lot to do with the nearby activities and public land. Bozeman has a deep culture, with arts and events readily available. It is also a very easy town to live in and its easy to commute to outdoor destinations. And, as most of the high tech companies have found homes in either Bozeman or Missoula, it seems clear that the surrounding valleys, parks and activities do a lot to attract out of state people to Montana.

The City of Bozeman has targeted the tech industry as a crucial aspect of their economic development plan. The report was produced using a survey of 78 of the 143 members of the HTBA.

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/economy/study-montana-high-tech-industry-growing-fast/article_cf7a3b06-d873-5821-ac63-1812ae2a33dc.html?utm_medium=desktop&utm_source=block_937344&utm_campaign=blox

 

http://mthightech.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/HTBA-Survey-Final-Report.pdf

 

Eminent Domain in Bozeman Montana

by Tim Hart

On Tuesday, the City of Bozeman grappled with employing one of the more interesting real estate practices – eminent domain. Eminent domain is when a government body forcibly purchases private land from an individual for the overall benefit of the public. Eminent domain can be a very hot topic because it draws people’s basic political philosophies on the government’s role towards its people into a real estate conversation—two things I think most of us would like to keep at a comfortable distance from each other.

In this specific case, a property owner nearby the land in question wanted to develop his own land. The Bridger Creek HOA did not grant him an easement that would have allowed him to connect the development to city water and sewer lines and building emergency roads. The HOA said its members were not interested in having more developments nearby. When they couldn’t settle the dispute between each other, they turned to the city to solve the matter. If Bozeman were to take eminent domain over the land, then the owner would be allowed to connect his utilities to city lines.

Bozeman, however, decided not to get involved and not annex the land. The city felt that such a drastic measure did not match up with the number of citizens who may benefit down the line. However, several commissioners saw the HOA’s attempt to block the eminent domain request as a thinly veiled way to fight any future development in the area.

Eminent domain is one of the more interesting real estate topics. In general, it’s a tool best used only when necessary because more often than not someone has to come out the loser.

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/city/bozeman-commission-nixes-eminent-domain-request/article_2f49a8e5-86a0-5a67-8e88-509778eb54f3.html

 

Bozeman Public Library Goes Mobile

by Tim Hart

The Bozeman Public Library looked to expand its services by going mobile. In our modern world, going mobile usually means a new app or mobile website—but not this time. No, the library is actually going mobile by creating a vehicle to take books to local Bozeman residents. The focus of the new mobile library?—to continue improving the quality of life for all local Bozemanites.

Helena, Billings and Missoula all have some form of mobile library so its great to see Bozeman hop on board. As Bozeman has expanded westward and the Gallatin County has seen a sharp rise in its population, the library has continued to try to make books available to all local residents, even as that number has grown. Belgrade’s Library, who just won an award for top small public library, has also adapted with the growing pains of a rising population.

The bookmobile, i.e. the traveling library, would better help reach out to Bozeman residents who cannot necessarily make it to the library themselves. The expansion would be very good for places like retirement communities, which often have a high ratio of consistent readers who may not be able to make it to the library. Some communities only have shuttles that visit the library once a month, so the mobile library will keep books in the hands of the more diligent readers.

The cost of the bookmobile would be approximately $600,000 but the library plans on raising their money through fundraising.

 

Source: http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/bozeman-public-library-gets-ready-to-expand-services/31459286

 

Willson Auditorium 3.5 Million Renovation Completed

by Tim Hart

The 78 year old Willson Auditorium will have some new swagger starting today. One of Bozeman’s biggest performance spaces, the auditorium had been out of commission while a 3.5 million dollar renovation that tackled everything from improved acoustics to a higher ceiling took place over the last 8 to 9 months.

Crews started working on the project in May and are set to finish today, assuming all goes to plan. Once the auditorium has gone through the necessary safety checks, there will be a performance in it on Friday.

Bozeman, which was just recently honored for being the 6th most artistically and culturally vibrant small city in the United States, has not been afraid to put the money where its mouth is, so to speak, in regards to local art. 2.5 million dollars of the total 3.5 million came from the Bozeman Schools Foundation—a local non-profit. Assuring those kind of funds demonstrates the importance of arts and culture to Bozeman residents. Knowing that the auditorium is one of Bozeman’s biggest performance spaces, local donators clearly felt strong enough about bringing consistent musical and theatrical production back to the auditorium by donating 2.5 million dollars.

The last million was funded by the Bozeman School District as a building repair fund. The local schools often use the auditorium for plays and musical recitals as well.

Improvements included new grey walls, as oppose to the old salmon, a higher ceiling, new lighting, wooden panels for acoustics and a new ventilation system to keep temperatures comfortable. Seats were re-padded and the auditorium was made much more handicap friendly.

It should be a treat to watch a performance in the new, sleek space.

 

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/education/showtime-willson-auditorium-set-to-reopen/article_a35ba981-b6c4-5f47-872f-4b12d7bb33b3.html?utm_medium=desktop&utm_source=block_801085&utm_campaign=blox

 

Bozeman Improves Safety with Recent Projects

by Tim Hart

Two recent projects taking place in Bozeman have highlighted the city’s recent efforts to better address the health and safety of its residents.

The Bozeman Police Foundation has spent nearly $6,000 to improve safety around Bozeman. One of the projects added flashing beacons to several crosswalks around Sacajawea Middle School and Whittier Elementary School. The new beacons should help drivers see and react to children crossing the street better than ever before.

Crossing guards have always helped children cross the road during times of high traffic, like in the mornings and after school. However, during off hours and  the times in between classes, those crosswalks do not have guards on patrol. Now, with flashing lights, the kids can cross the street safer and cars will be well aware when someone tries to cross the street.

Bozeman has been updating signage in town for the last year or so to better address the needs of its people.

In other news, the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital has seen its 15 million dollar expansion move faster than expected, due to favorable weather. The hospital will be putting in a new 5 story, 80,000 sq. ft building to help the hospital keep up with a growing Gallatin Valley population. The new building will be for offices, but it will help the hospital run smoother while better addressing the health and safety of Bozeman people.

Livingston has also taken on the construction of a new hospital, really showcasing the population growth of Southwest Montana.

 

 

Sources: http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/bozeman-school-crosswalks-get-new-makeover/31202248

http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/construction-on-new-medical-office-at-bozeman-deaconess-underway/31243572

 

Montana's "Non-Disclosure" Status Up for Grabs

by Tim Hart

A bill has come forward in the Montana Legislature that could mean big changes for homebuyers, sellers and real estate agents alike. The bill would make all completed home sale numbers open and accessible to the public. Essentially, the bill will void Montana’s current status as a non-disclosure state.

A non-disclosure state is any state that does not release home sale values to the public. For example, if a nearby neighbor sells his home, another homeowner will not be able to find public record of how much the neighbor sold it for. The public will have seen the listing price, but once the contract goes into negotiations, only the buyer and seller would know how much higher or lower the true sale price became. Under the new law, the public would know exactly how much each home has sold for in its past.

Non-disclosure states currently provide property information, owner transfers with loan amounts, and mortgage transfer taxes. Though that information can help a person get close to the sale value, it will not hit it directly on the head.

Proponents of the bill believe that making that information public will help prevent events that occurred during the housing recession seen in 2008. Real estate values increased by 55% across the state, requiring thousands of reappraisals to find true home values.

Opponents like the Montana Association of Realtors have argued that individual’s right to privacy on large matters like home sales trump the public’s right to know. Sales made in financial distress and multi million dollar home sales alike would be made public record—information many homeowners would prefer to keep quiet from their neighbors.

Setting a price on a home can be trickier without disclosed sales, making online “home value” estimates from websites like zillow.com and trulia.com just plain wrong. To receive a proper evaluation in a state like Montana, an experienced broker or appraiser would need to value the home in person.

If the bill is passed, it will affect every real estate transaction in the future. Everyone should pay close attention to how this bill may affect their own real estate dealings in the state.

 

 

Sources: http://www.homeinsight.com/faq12.asp?GCID=Direct

 

http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/economy/bill-before-montana-legislature-would-make-home-sales-figures-public/article_86a9b1fe-4494-5f1c-8609-8b10d7ada243.html?utm_medium=desktop&utm_source=block_953010&utm_campaign=blox

Legislators brought forth House Bill 168 for approval this week with the hopes of finding a compromise between a recent judicial ruling and the subdivision developers caught in between a major policy shift.

This October, Judge Jeffrey Sherlock ruled that developers would have to acquire water rights for wells drawing from the same aquifer (read more about his ruling here). Before his ruling, subdivisions were allowed to drill an unlimited number of small, private wells without needing a water permit. The ruling closed a loophole that allowed these subdivisions to pull more water than some farms and ranches with senior water rights without paying anything additional. However, developers who had already applied for a subdivision permit or who had even drilled a few wells were left unsure if they would now have to abide by this new policy.

With passage of the new house bill, those who had already applied before the ruling would be treated under the same requirements they had been subject to beforehand. Developers who apply as of now will be subject to the new ruling.

The bill is unique in the fact that is has been approved by both real estate and agricultural groups—groups usually at odds when it comes to Montana water rights. No opponents spoke against the bill, although 4 other bills addressing the same issue are currently being drafted.

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/environment/bill-would-grandfather-wells-for-developing-subdivisions/article_7695aa7e-9c52-11e4-8474-db970fb2ff57.html

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