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Citizen Crawford Asks: Is Bozeman Becoming A Banana Republic For A New Breed Of Investor-Saviors?

Downtown Businessman And MoJo Columnist Questions The City Commission's Decision On Black/Olive

Requiem for Bozeman's historic districts? Andy Holloran's newly-approved Black and Olive development. The terraces in the back, at right, tower two stories over a historic house.  Says Crawford: note how parking is portrayed in this schematic rendering versus what the reality will be.
Requiem for Bozeman's historic districts? Andy Holloran's newly-approved Black and Olive development. The terraces in the back, at right, tower two stories over a historic house. Says Crawford: note how parking is portrayed in this schematic rendering versus what the reality will be.
Democratically-elected commissions or councils most generally vote this way: they follow the desires and heed the concerns expressed overwhelmingly by their constituents.

Yet when a commission votes overwhelmingly against the opinions voiced by 70 percent of citizens showing up consistently in a series of open meetings, corruption of process and corruption of duty comes to mind. The kind you might see in a less-than-proper democracy as often found, say, in an old Central American banana republic where government existed as a façade for “special” interests.  

The raw material that has become a currency more important than community values in Bozeman, Montana is not, of course, bananas, but real estate speculation.

So what the hell happened in Bozeman on the night of October 18, 2017?  If four out of five commissioners were privy to information unknown to the multitude of citizens voicing opposition, an adequate explanation should be expected. But such information nullifying the points raised by citizens did not exist.

Only commissioner Cyndy Andrus, soon to be Bozeman's next mayor, did not poke a stick in the eye of the historic neighborhood. And the way the vote went down begs this question: why was a compromise between the developer and the neighborhood residents not suggested or insisted upon?  Could this have instead been mentioned in private meetings with the developer Mr. Andy Holloran who might have said that “it would not pencil” if a smaller number of stories, a scale conducive and friendlier to the long-existing neighborhood and a more appropriate number of parking places were required?

This leads to still another question: does the City of Bozeman feel therefore obliged to insure that developers’ projects “pencil out” profitably without regard for neighborhood compatibility?  If the city is now in the business of insuring profit for entrepreneurs and not expecting them to assume the normal risks of the marketplace, then we should all line up and cash in. 

Curiously, Mr. Holloran was once mentioned in the Bozeman Chronicle as a possible savior of Bozeman. The Chronicle's pandering profile lead with this unbelievable headline (no, I am not making this up): "Is Andy Holloran, reshaping downtown, the hero Bozeman needs?"

To whom and what is Andy Holloran a hero and what exactly is he saving? This is a question best posed to editors at the Chronicle and to our elected officials.

When I served on a city council in Idaho we listened to citizens. We had little hesitancy in holding an out-of-state developer’s feet to the fire when a hotel development threatened to obscure local residents’ viewsheds, whatever its economic promise to the community.

Compromise is a fundamental of democratic governance. So is listening to the desires of dedicated, passionate, engaged and informed citizens. Granted, "infill" is a benighted idea when approached with a sane degree of appreciation of neighborhood values developed over many decades.  Or even knowing and being able to articulate clearly what the cumulative effects of said "infill" are going to be; something that not a single commissioner or member of the planning staff has been able or willing to conjure. 
Of the five members of the Bozeman City Commission, only Cyndy Andrus, pictured second from left, heeded the concerns of local neighbors and hundreds of others who have "liked" the "Save Bozeman" Facebook page.  They turned out hundreds of people to hearings and meetings about Andy Holloran's apartment complex at Black and Olive. Among the concerns are growing parking problems, lack of affordable housing in Holloran's development, and the alleged inappropriate scale of Holloran's building next to a historic neighbhorhood.  Andrus voted against approval.  Commissioners Jeff Krauss, far left, Mayor Carson Taylor, middle, Chris Mehl, second from right, and I-Ho Pomeroy sided with Holloran. Photo courtesy City of Bozeman
Of the five members of the Bozeman City Commission, only Cyndy Andrus, pictured second from left, heeded the concerns of local neighbors and hundreds of others who have "liked" the "Save Bozeman" Facebook page. They turned out hundreds of people to hearings and meetings about Andy Holloran's apartment complex at Black and Olive. Among the concerns are growing parking problems, lack of affordable housing in Holloran's development, and the alleged inappropriate scale of Holloran's building next to a historic neighbhorhood. Andrus voted against approval. Commissioners Jeff Krauss, far left, Mayor Carson Taylor, middle, Chris Mehl, second from right, and I-Ho Pomeroy sided with Holloran. Photo courtesy City of Bozeman
Buildings of much greater height than their surroundings, like Holloran's approved Black-Olive apartments that will be affordable only to the more well-to-do, can appear from the Bridger Mountains not unlike tombstones scattered in a field whether circling the downtown or randomly situated.  Gradient changes in height, as proposed by the two-story adjacent homeowners, are less overbearing and of gentler intrusion in established historic neighborhoods. This should be considered by both elected and non-elected officials in creating common-sense building codes to be applied to shaping growth. 

“Infill not overfill” is not a bad guideline for decision-makers when following codes for growth.  It might also be hoped that city officials, when creating or following building codes, not pander to developers seeking low-hanging fruit.  The responsibility of elected officials is the ongoing viability of a community, not the bottom line of developers, whatever semi-religious meaning that has garnered in recent years.

Hopefully those running in the current election for Bozeman’s City Commission can shed some light on their views of the foregoing.  I won’t be holding my breath.
Tim Crawford
About Tim Crawford

Tim Crawford is a downtown Bozeman businessman, a Gallatin Valley farmer, a professional photographer and a lifelong conservationist, hunter, angler and gun owner.
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