Belgrade anticipates rapid growth within next decade

Downtown Belgrade business concerned with rapid growth
Posted at 3:30 PM, Oct 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-25 08:13:13-04

BELGRADE — As the City of Bozeman took a close look at its growth recently, so did the City of Belgrade.

An update of the Belgrade growth policy shows that it, too, is growing by the thousands.

The Belgrade Growth Plan has not been updated since 2006.

As of this week, Belgrade officials say the growth felt by the rest of the county is felt here, too, enough to cause business and homeowners here to worry about the future.

"Belgrade is growing crazy and fast," says Rhonda Gilbert, co-owner of the Central Ice Cafe and Bubby's in Downtown Belgrade.

According to the latest Belgrade growth plan, over the last decade more than 1,000 people have moved to Belgrade, something Brant and Rhonda Gilbert have noticed over the last 30 years of living there.

"Within the last eight of those 30 years, it has gone crazy," Rhonda says.

The Gilbert’s say small cafes like their own just a street away from downtown aren’t the only ones feeling the impact.

"You see the limitations are the first things; roadways, schools, things that need expanded immediately that are overpowering pressures that are obvious," Brant says. "Businesses aren't making it rich around here. Most of us are Mom and Pop. We survive. We are happy with that but if we had to extend that farther and go farther with employees, not that we wouldn't want to but where does it come from?"

Both of the Gilbert's agree that expansion, at least in most cases, is good but here in Belgrade there are other concerns and the city is looking at different ways of helping those out.

The Belgrade Planning Department spent more than half a year updating the growth policy -- aiming to take a closer look at zoning and subdivision regulations.

"The population of kids is triple since my son went to kindergarten. He's now in fifth grade. Triple the classrooms," Rhonda says. "We've gone to two lane roads to four lane roads in various parts of our town because the traffic is multiplied."

Since 2010, Belgrade has grown from a population of 7,400 to around 9,000.

City officials expect 5,000 more to be tacked onto that number in the next decade.

To keep up with that, the city is preparing with possible plans for a future parking garage, more affordable housing, pedestrian crossings and more lanes to help reduce traffic.

"Our concern with the growth over by the airport is that they are going to start pushing them straight across into that new business district that they are building down there," Rhonda says. "What is that going to do to Belgrade?"

To the Gilbert’s, they hope the expansion stays a good thing and doesn’t turn Belgrade into something else.

"That's the change that they are really addressing in my mind every time," Brant says. "It is simply put: how is the personality? How is the interaction? Where are we going with that? And that is what we don't want."

The new policy also drafts the city’s first ever parks and rec master plan.

That aims to bring an aquatic center to town and improve and expand parks and trails.