The Belgrade City Council and Gallatin County Commission this week approved an amendment to the Belgrade Growth Policy, designating a 183-acre swath of land located north and west of the new Story Creek Elementary School for residential high density (RHD) development.

The amendment also designates contiguous land south of Weaver Road and between Bolinger and Collins roads as RHD.

“Basically what we’re doing is … designating this entire area for future growth and putting a land-use designation of residential high density so we can move to the next step in the process to put in residential zoning,” explained Jason Karp, city planner, before the council voted Monday evening.

During a public hearing on the proposal, two area property owners expressed concerns about the term “high density,” arguing that small residential lots and apartment buildings are not in keeping with the character of much of the area.

But Karp said the new designation does not mean the entire area will necessarily be open for high-density residential growth. Rather, the RHD will preclude the development of gravel pits in the area while the city completes its zoning process in the area.

In addition, any projects proposed for the area will be subject to the approval by the city Planning Board and City Council, Karp added. In the same way, the Bolinger 220 Plan previously adopted by the Planning Board, City Council and County Commission, initially designated the area residential high density. That land was subsequently zoned R-3.

West Town Holdings, LLC, Elevate Properties, LLC, and John and Bethany Rosa applied for the Growth Policy amendment for the 183-acre parcel located north and west of the city limits. Their “Four Graces Plan” is adjacent to the Bolinger 220 Plan. The area of the Four Graces Plan was zoned R-2 in the interim zoning ordinance passed last July, but according to a city memo, the applicants have stated their intention to propose a mixed-use residential development comprising single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments, along with potential neighbohood-serving commercial areas.

The exact configuration of the development will be reviewed during future zoning and subdivision processes.