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Community members raise concerns at commission meeting

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Feb 24 2014 11:03:42 PM MST
Updated On: Feb 25 2014 12:09:08 AM MST
Community members raise concerns at commission meeting
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

The Bozeman City Commission meeting was packed on Monday night, as more than one hundred members of the public came to voice their opinions about items on, and off, the agenda.

Concerned citizens urged the commission to vote against a zoning amendment that would allow an out-of-state developer to build a student-housing development on more than 15 acres south of Montana State University.

17 owners with property within 150 feet of the development submitted formal protests against the rezoning. Because of that, the commission needed to vote 4-1 in a super-majority to change the zoning. The zoning amendment did not pass.

Mayor Krauss voted against the rezoning, saying it felt out of place for the neighborhood.

During public comment, more than 30 residents stood in line, waiting to speak about the change in zoning and the housing complex.

All of the public comments NBC Montana heard were against the housing development. Residents concerns included potential safety hazards of college students living in a high density development, and worries of lower property values for the nearby neighborhoods.

They also worried about losing parkland, and many people didn't like the idea that the complex is proposed by an out-of-state developer.

"The number of people that have come tonight in opposition to the zone map amendment clearly demonstrates that R-4 zoning is not compatible with the existing residential character of this area," said a concerned resident.

"I believe that housing for college age adults should be safety separated from family neighborhoods with children and schools," said resident Alison Harmon, "but I don't think the proposed development is good for college students either."

The city of Bozeman recommended the commission approve the re-zoning, and a representative of Campus Crest spoke, explaining why they believe the Campus Crest development would benefit Montana State University and the Bozeman Community.

Also at Monday's commission meeting, the room wasn't packed just for the Campus Crest development, but about something not on the agenda.

Many people spoke out against an effort to get a non-discrimination ordinance on the books in Bozeman, that would protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community from discrimination in housing, hiring, and public accommodations.

Some said they think it would create reverse discrimination.

"Can you tell me one instance of where a person has been denied housing or employment based on their sexual identity?" said a Bozeman resident.

"If this NDO goes through, and starts to take over towns, you need to understand that its going to affect businesses like mine and I will be seen as discriminating," explained Mary Beth Adams, who owns a Catholic medical clinic in Belgrade.

"The more open homosexuals become, the more people who hold traditional values will be forced to conceal their views," said Belgrade resident Anne Brigham.

Discussion of a non-discrimination ordinance was not part of the official agenda at the commission meeting. At this time, the city is not drafting an ordinance.

The meeting began at 6 p.m., and commissioners were still listening to public comment at 11 p.m.