BILLINGS- The Billings City Council approved Monday night the One Big Sky District development plan.
The 7-3 vote was a key step forward for the massive downtown redevelopment project, though it doesn’t commit public dollars.
City staff recommended approval of the deal to form a partnership with Big Sky Economic Development and Landmark Development Services. The plan has called for a large private investment to be matched with public money from the city’s tax-increment finance district.
City Administrator Chris Kukulski said at the meeting, “To have Billings be a community that is greater for our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren is something I suspect everyone in this room would sign on to having it as an aspiration for us here in Billings. “
Steve Arveschoug, the executive director of the Big Sky Economic Development, said, “to make a decision tonight to move forward with this plan actually sends a pretty loud voice to the rest of the state. Time for the state of Montana to get in the game and look at its economic development tools.”
Council members Mike Yakawich, Roy Neese, Denise Joy, Reg Gibbs, Penny Ronning, Shaun Brown and Mayor Bill Cole voted in favor. Council members Brent Cromley, Frank Ewalt and Chris Friedel voted no.
The vote came at just after 10 p.m., just over four-and-a-half hours after the council meeting began.
A concurrent effort to garner state dollars for the project has been introduced at the Montana Legislature by Sen. Roger Webb of Billings, but it’s gained little traction so far.
Developers say One Big Sky would include four core districts in downtown Billings, each with its own anchor.
Those districts are entertainment, lifestyle, education, and a health and wellness district.
This is a developing story.
Reporting by Zoe Zandora, Q2 News