A study commissioned by the City of Bozeman in April has concluded that the city should reconsider the intensity of its regulations in its Conservation Overlay District. Downtown residents within the district, currently have to apply for a certificate of appropriateness before being allowed to make exterior modifications to any properties. The study concluded that although district regulations had helped preserve historic buildings in the area, it was also a major contributor to the lack of infill development in the city, keeping home inventory low and affecting home affordability in Bozeman.
According to the study, there are not any detached, single-family homes in the conservation district that are affordable to residents making 80% or less of the city’s median income. The study believes that by allowing and welcoming infill development, Bozeman can keep its historic charm while helping lower home prices downtown.
The study noted that vacant lots are scarce in town and suggested Bozeman start offering incentives like smaller lots, ground accessory dwelling units (normally ADUs are above garages etc, but do provide rental income to the homeowner and another bedroom for a Bozemanite.
The study believed that by replacing the overarching district with a collection of districts would help provide more specific regulations to neighborhoods. With code relaxations, 35 properties within the district would be eligible for renovation, expansion and densification.
As the overlay district, in a sense, operates as the city’s Home Owner’s Association, the study’s findings are not surprising. Although the study still suggests keeping control in the hands of the city, essentially, each historic district would operate as regulator for the quality and consistency of specific neighborhoods, like an HOA would. That would allow the city to lower standards in one area, while maintaining them in another, helping them preserve historic homes while also increasing downtown density.