It’s an exciting time for Belgrade as two planning projects are concurrently in the works: the Belgrade Downtown Design Plan and the Belgrade Area Zoning Regulation.
A design plan for Belgrade’s downtown will enhance the commercial core’s sense of place, encourage new businesses to locate here, provide much-needed mobility improvements, and put Belgrade on the map as a destination for a variety of visitors. Public and stakeholder support in creating a vision for downtown Belgrade will be critical to its success.
In 2017, Belgrade created an Urban Renewal District with a tax increment financing provision for the City’s commercial core to have a dedicated funding source for public improvement projects like building sidewalks, updating infrastructure, streetscape improvements and much more. The goal of this planning effort is to make downtown Belgrade a vibrant hub of economic activity that serves existing and future residents as well as those traveling through the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport. As funding for projects is in place, this plan will determine where to use URD funds first and prioritize various proposed public improvements. Once the plan is adopted, we will be able to start on these improvements as soon as funding allows.
The purpose of the Belgrade Area Zoning Regulation is to establish zoning within the 4.5-mile Planning Jurisdiction (“the donut”) surrounding the City. Currently, the majority of this area has no zoning as it is in unincorporated Gallatin County, which means there is little control over the type and nature of development. As the Belgrade area and Gallatin County are experiencing rapid growth, zoning can provide a level of predictability and protection over how and where growth occurs - which is why public support and participation in creating zoning districts is so important. The Belgrade Growth Policy adopted earlier this year identified the public’s desire to remain a rural, small-town community. Residents value the agricultural landscapes that define our
character and make Belgrade a great place to live. A zoning regulation will help us preserve those valued landscapes by focusing growth near existing municipalities and infrastructure. But this is only one benefit to creating a zoning regulation.
It’s important to clarify what zoning can and cannot do. Zoning can: place reasonable restrictions on the use of land (like no industrial uses in residential areas); control building height, size and setbacks (from roads and neighboring lots); and promote and accommodate the types of development desired by the community. Zoning cannot: prevent property owners from building on their property (or using their property); and it will not dictate what color your house will be or define how many trees you can have on your property.
What is the public’s vision for downtown Belgrade? What should future growth look like in the Belgrade Planning Area? The answers to these questions will shape the future of our community – and we need to hear from you! Community participation in these planning efforts will ensure they are uniquely “Belgrade.” There are many opportunities to engage with both projects on the Be Heard Belgrade website: https://beheardbelgrade.com/ and you can follow updates on our Facebook page (@BeHeardBelgrade) to stay up-to-date.
Jason Karp is the Belgrade Planning Director. He likes bicycles.