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City rezones land for planned housing in west Billings

Posted at 10:41 PM, Feb 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-01 07:59:47-05

BILLINGS - The city has taken another step forward in hopes of adding more housing to Billings West End.

The re-zoning for multi-family housing near Rocky Vista University off Shiloh Road was approved by the Billings City Council Monday night by a vote of 8 to 3.

But not everyone is happy about it— especially those living nearby.

It is early in the process for the proposed development, which is near the intersection of Shiloh Road and Central Avenue.

Developers say they'll deal with the roads, but neighbors say they're concerned about traffic issues along Bell Avenue. Sanderson Stewart has come up with the conceptual design and presentation for Dorn Real Estate and Development.

"This is a mixed-use development," said Rick Leuthhold, Sanders Steward chairman and director of business development.

As Billings West End continues to grow, so do the growing pains - more people, more traffic.

And the zoning has been approved to add 592 apartments and townhomes near Emmanuel Baptist church just down the street from the new Rocky Vista University.

"The developer will be responsible for significant improvements along Bell Avenue, part of which was built in the county years ago," Leuthold said. "There'll be a rebuild of the intersection of Shiloh. There'll be traffic calming, speed tables, speed humps."

"That's not a street you can have traffic going both directions back and forth on," Roger Fuhrman, a nearby resident, said about Bell Avenue.

Fuhrman and his neighbors have concerns with more people using Bell, and the added traffic challenges.

"The traffic as well as impact on the schools on the west side of Billings, police coverage, that type of thing," Fuhrman said.

Rocky Vista Way, which used to be Monad Avenue in that area, would be the main street.

Bell and Obie Lane would be secondary roads for direct access.

All three are necessary for safety, in case residents would have to leave in an emergency.

"They wouldn't have a connection to the north or a connection to the east other than Rocky Vista Way," Nicole Cromwell, the city of Billings zoning coordinator, said about access without Bell and Obie.

The City Council Monday approved the mixed residential plan use zoning change. All of the almost 600 units on the property would be rentals.

"The ones that we'll be facing Bell have a height limitation two and a half stories," Cromwell said. "They don't intend to do a two-and-a-half story building, they're probably just a story or a story and a half."

"Our property will be a market rate property," Leuthold said. "It's not a program-sanctioned affordable project, that kind of thing. It's accurate to call it workforce housing."

"I'd like to see more owner occupancy versus continued high-density apartments," Fuhrman said.

Those are conversations that will continue to emerge as the city's west end continues to grow.

"Whatever we can do to help provide for additional housing is good for the entire city of Billings," said Leuthold.