Editor’s note: We are trying something new by offering a piece of the opinion section every so often to Gallatin County officials. Hopefully, the propaganda will be kept to a minimum.
Gallatin County has been discovered... and it is easy to see why! Gallatin County boasts many assets, including a well-educated workforce, growing high-tech job base, spectacular year-round recreation opportunities, unique community character, an easily accessible and expanding international airport, and close proximity to Yellowstone National Park, just to name a few.
Because of the many wonderful things that Gallatin County offers, people are moving here in greater numbers than ever. The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the county’s population at approximately 112,000 people and shows that the county’s population increased by 25% between 2010 and 2018. And that population is likely to surpass 200,000 by 2040.
This population growth has led to challenges for the county – and the need to begin dialogue as a community on how we adapt to these changes and plan for the future. The county recently initiated an update to the Growth Policy, which is the overarching land use policy document that helps guide and manage future growth and development. The document is intended to reflect the values of the community by adopting goals, objectives, and policies that uphold those values. The project has been titled “Envision Gallatin” and will be happening over the next 18 months.
Before any policy is drafted, the first step is to make the public aware of the project and to provide opportunities for involvement. Since June, the County Planning Department has been reaching out to community members at various events around the county. Residents have been asked to talk about what they love and what they would improve about Gallatin County, in order to better understand the values of the community. Here is a little bit of what we have heard so far:
What you love:
• The beautiful nature, of course. Rivers, mountains, forests and all that MONTANA out there!
• The endless outdoor opportunities, including hiking, cycling, skiing, rafting, hunting, and fishing.
• All the open space, public lands, and rich agricultural heritage of this valley.
• The laid-back pace and easygoing lifestyle.
• The friendly community of people that live here and call this place home. Your neighbors!
Opportunities for improvement:
• Preserving community values and
• Directing growth to where it makes the most sense, like where infrastructure already exists.
• Respecting the environment and taking care of our important water resources.
• Tackling the issue of climate change through sustainability and resiliency efforts.
• Mitigating the impacts of development, including things like traffic, safety, and the loss of open space/farmland.
• Addressing affordable housing needs.
• Providing better public transportation services and active transportation infrastructure.
• Improving intergovernmental coordination.
We’ve heard many valid concerns so far about rapid growth and other changes in the County, but we want the public to know that we are still listening. Now is the time to have your voice heard! Please visit the project website, www.envisiongallatin.com, and take a few minutes to complete the Community Questionnaire. We want you to be a part of this process and to help Gallatin County become an even better version of the amazing place it already is.
Penned by the Gallatin County Growth Policy Steering Committee Members.