Madison County Planning Board adds two new positions
The Crossings Subdivision & Mile Creek RV park enter pre-application process
Eleven Madison County Planning Board (MCPB) members plus planner Cody Marxer and planning clerk Michelle Schrick sat down on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. for a five hour meeting in Virginia City. About 20 members of the public, including concerned members of the public, Sheridan’s mayor, and project developers, attended in-person while another 20 folks attended online. The last time the MCPB met was in November 2021.
TWO OPEN BOARD POSITIONS & NEW CHAIRS
Since the last meeting in 2021, six planning board positions were up for renewal out of the total eleven. All six members said they would return. The board also approved two new seats to increase representation: one for Big Sky and another for Virginia City.
The Madison County Planning Board members also approved Steve Janzen as the new chair and Tamara Millican-Wood as the new vice chair. Janzen joined the group in 2020; Millican-Wood joined in 2018. Pat Bradley is currently the longest serving board member—she joined in 2013.
ENNIS MASTER PLAN
The lead planner for the project, Nora Bland, presented a rough outline of the Ennis Master Plan project and answered questions from the MCPB members over Zoom as the first presentation of the evening. Bland explained the ambitious project for the town is prepared to move forward in phases for construction and funding purposes. The public meetings were well attended and the project sent out 700 household surveys to receive feedback, explained Bland. There are still some questions about funding.
SPANISH PEAKS HIGHLANDS WEST PHASE 3
Spanish Peak developers presented their final pitch for a 26 acre major subdivision with 10 single family units as part of their 2019 outline development plan. The board discussed variations in the project’s request, provided feedback, and voted to approve the subdivision. Pat Bradley was the only dissenting vote. She pointed out the project minimized the impacts on wildlife and water in the area.
The MCPB discussed wildlife corridors, amending buffer zones for a perennial versus intermittent creek, and pointed out the location of the three septic sites in a steep gully.
Another topic of discussion revolved around deed restricting a portion of the subdivision as open space in perpetuity. The Spanish Peaks representative explained he’d like the language to be more flexible. Perpetuity makes it difficult for the Resort to come back in the future and make any changes, he explained.
PRE-APP FOR PIONEERING LANDING SUBDIVISION IN YELLOWSTONE CLUB
A Yellowstone Mountain Club representative laid out a plan to convert 23.23 acres into three single family residential lots and three open space areas. This project is a part of the Yellowstone Mountain Club’s Master Plan. Water and sewer will be provided through the existing YC wastewater treatment systems. The purpose of the pre-application process is to explain the project and answer questions. Nothing is approved by the MCPB during pre-application.
PRE-APP FOR LOVE VIEW IV OR “HAPPY RANCH” IN YELLOWSTONE CLUB
A family with three children is hoping to consolidate their units and convert 55.85 acres of residential land and 90 acres of open space into a family retreat type setting off Foxtail Pine Road in the Yellowstone Club. This project appeared before as “Happy Ranch” but the amount of lots will be decreased from 15 down to four.
PRE-APP FOR THE CROSSINGS SUBDIVISION IN SHERIDAN
Rick Remitz, a developer with Three Rivers Development, outlined a proposal to build 50 residential units on 18.59 acres within the city limits of Sheridan. Most of the public attended the meeting because of this project.
Remitz explained he did not have all the answers yet about the Crossings because it didn’t make sense to invest in specifics when the project is still so young. “All I know is there is a lot of interest, people looking for rentals, and we’re trying to solve [the problem],” Remitz said.
A large portion of the public attend the MCPB meeting to submit comments and feedback. Folks expressed worry about the implications on traffic, water availability, and preserving the character of Sheridan. Adding 200 people does not make sense, explained neighbor Gary Hilliker, who expressed support for 10-15 lots instead of 50.
Remitz explained the price of building and materials had gone up over the last year. It’s virtually impossible to do affordable housing for 10-15 units, he said, and estimated the project costs at $20 million. Remitz appeared frustrated because he sees the development as an opportunity to help, and with other projects in Three Forks and Townsend, this subdivision would increase housing, something Sheridan desperately needs.
April Gerth, who joined the MCPB in 2020, pushed back. She said she’d been inundated with letters complaining about the subdivision. “No one talks about Covid anymore, they talk about the subdivision,” said Gerth.
With the project only in the pre-application process, the MCPB did not make any decisions during the Jan. 31 meeting. They will host a public hearing on the project in the future.
PRE-APP FOR MILE CREEK RANCH RV PARK AND RESORT
Madison County planner Cody Marxer kicked off the next phase of the evening with a description of the Mile Creek RV project south of Cameron. “We have received to date upwards of 17 phone calls in two weeks and 47 written comments,” Marxer said.
Brian Mason, who proposed the RV park near Sheep Creek Road by the gravel pit, explained one day the idea just hit. “It’s been a dream of mine to come out here and figure out how to sustain myself, make a living for me and my family,” Mason said. He has traveled to the area with his family for over a decade.
Mason laid out five guiding principles for the Mile Creek Ranch RV Park: 1) locate new development close to existing services and communities, 2) protect river corridors, 3) preserve our most productive agriculture lands, 4) new development should pay its own way, 5) respect private property rights.
He also explained the park, which will be a seasonal use campground, will not allow firearms, fireworks, ATVs, or dirt bikes to mitigate fire danger. They also will prohibit fire pits and dogs off leash to protect the wildlife moving through the area. Mason's proposed plan is to use three sewer fields on sight.
Ken Hansen, a year rounder on Highway 87, asked Mason if electric, water, and sewer hookups would be provided for all units. Hansen worried about the blackouts in the valley and NorthWestern Energy’s ability to handle another 150 hook ups. Hansen also expressed concern over the development because it will single handedly double the summer population in the valley.
Once the public hearing and pre-application process concluded, the MCPB discussed Big Sky. Marxer explained her intention to put together tours of Big Sky in the summer and fall of 2022 to better understand all of the development happening in the area.
Lincoln Roberts, a MCPB member, also raised concern about the breakdown in communication with the public in regards to contentious projects. “With all the public that was at the meeting this evening, there’s going to be some point we have to recommend zoning to the commissioners to take a look at. I mean that would solve a lot of these issues people are up in arms against, but right now there really is no avenue to stop these projects,” said Roberts.
“There is so much misconception, especially on zoning,” said another member. The MCPB suggested hosting community meetings to explain the process, publicizing issues in the newspaper, and what can be done and what cannot be done.
DIRECTOR OF MADISON COUNTY PLANNING STILL VACANT
The commissioners for Madison County have struggled to find a replacement Director for Madison County Planning, explained Marxer. The position is still open at this point and the job description is sitting with the commissioners.
The next MCPB meeting will be held virtually and in person on Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. in the public meeting room at the Madison County Administrative Building in Virginia City. The Flatiron development will be discussed.