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Bozeman growth policy to be updated as population creeps higher, rentals feel weight

Posted at 10:10 AM, Jul 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-19 12:10:35-04

BOZEMAN, Mont. – The amount of people moving to Gallatin County, especially Bozeman, is staggering.

You’ve seen it, whether it’s while trying to drive down Main Street or just trying to rent a car.

On average, nearly 10 people a day are moving to Gallatin County.

Add that to the growing number of people visiting from out of state, you now have tens of thousands of people in one place, needing the same services that you do.

The deputy mayor says the growth policy is outdated but a change could help.

If you are looking for a rental car in Bozeman, this is a familiar sound.

“We appreciate your patience during this short delay. Your call is very important to us.”

“Please hold while we transfer your call.”

That’s because they are booked solid.

When called on Thursday, three different agencies in the area, all had the same answer.

On top of that, rates have skyrocketed.

Journey Rent-a-Car in Four Corners is another that’s seen a business bump for over a month.

“By Wednesday of every week, that next weekend’s cars are already reserved out,” says one staff member at Journey Rent-a-Car.

All of this, another sign of growing demand and population throughout the valley.

And it’s not just car rental services feeling it.

Bozeman deputy mayor Chris Mehl says that’s why the growth policy has its name, governing land use.

“The idea is how do we keep the quality that we have and then add to it without lessening that quality that we want but also knowing that we’ve got to build a lot of apartments, a lot of townhouses,” Mehl says.

“In Bozeman, at least, about 55 percent of residents rent,” Mehl says. “College towns, so Flagstaff, Bozeman are the reverse of national. Nationally, about 55 to 60 percent own.”

Whether you are moving to the area to stay or you are one of those folks who was just looking for a rental car but can’t, the deputy mayor says this updated growth plan could give it more room in the future to make doing both of those things easier.

“If we are building the right amount of houses at the right amount of time and the right places, on major roads, allowing for places for businesses to grow to support those new people, we’ll be more stable,” Mehl says.

The growth policy is in the process of being updated right now, channeling through a series of public input sessions.

“You should always be updating plans after 10 years,” Mehl says. “For us, it’s especially important that we update it because of the rapid rate of growth that we’re on right now.”

Mehl says keeping up to date with a growing growth is essential.

“It’s going to affect businesses,” Mehl says. “It’s going to affect how much you pay for gas to get to your job and how safe it is for your kid to walk to school.”

The new-and-improved growth policy has gone through two public sessions, with two more planned for the future.

Those will happen after Labor Day.