Madison Valley and Big Sky residents discuss parks and rec district again

A meeting this week could be a step toward resurrecting a Madison Valley Parks and Recreation district.

The meeting is being held Wednesday and will bring together interest groups from the Madison Valley and Big Sky area along with county commissioner Jim Hart.

The meeting stems from a presentation by Big Sky residents to Madison County Commissioners last week, asking them to support a joint parks and recreation district with Gallatin County in the Big Sky area.

This proposal, which has been spearheaded by the Big Sky Community Corporation, is actually the latest development in what has become somewhat of a feud between residents in the Madison Valley and the Big Sky area.

The latest proposal would be a parks and recreation district that would encompass the Big Sky Area Resort Tax boundary, said Katie Morrison, executive director of the Big Sky Community Corporation.

The new district would be non-taxing and provide a governmental infrastructure to secure grants and other funding, Morrison said.

The proposal already has support of the Gallatin County Commissioners, who have adopted a resolution to create the district on their side of the county line, she said.

However, for the plan to go through the Madison County Commissioners have to agree as well and last week they put off a decision on the resolution until at least their July 12 meeting.

Last December, Madison County Commissioners passed a resolution to put a Madison Valley Parks and Recreation District before voters in May. That district boundary would be the Ennis School District, which encompasses property in the Big Sky area that is in Madison County. The resolution the commissioners approved then would ask voters to approve a 3-mill levy to fund the district.

However, the resolution created a stir in the Big Sky area. Morrison and the Big Sky Community Corporation opposed the idea of a parks and recreation district that took tax dollars out of the Big Sky area for use in the Madison Valley.

Over the winter, commissioners also discovered that Madison County already had a parks and recreation district in the Big Sky area that had been approved by voters back in 1988. Since a new parks and recreation district couldn’t overlap an existing one, commissioners voted in February to repeal their December resolution, leaving the future of a Madison Valley Parks and Recreation District up in the air.

However, Morrison and her group got busy figuring out how to get their own district going.

Parks and Recreation are crucial to the Big Sky area, Morrison said. The idea of forming a joint district between Madison and Gallatin Counties has been talked about before, but the logistics of the multijurisdictional district was prohibitive.

However, with the discovery of the 1988 district in Madison County, the Big Sky folks feel like they’ve found something of a solution. Rather than forming a new district, Morrison is hoping Madison County Commissioners will expand the existing district to the resort tax boundaries in Madison County.

However, some in the Madison Valley feel like that might be a bit of a stretch.

“I don’t want them to expand it all the way to Jack Creek,” said Lynn Leeming, an Ennis resident who was instrumental in getting the original resolution for a Madison Valley Parks and Recreation District passed by the commissioners.

Extending Big Sky’s park district into Jack Creek could prevent people who work and recreate in Madison Valley from supporting local parks and recreation projects with their tax dollars, Leeming said.

Plus the commissioners don’t have any good answers yet as to how to deal with the existing parks and recreation district, she said.

There doesn’t seem to be any clear answer as to whether or not the commissioners can expand the existing district and removing it should take a vote of the people, Leeming said.

However, if the commissioners remove the old district, then she would push them to re-instate the resolution to establish and parks and recreation district that encompassed the entire Ennis School District and put the issue before voters.

Both Hart and fellow Madison County Commissioner Dave Schulz are hoping the meeting Wednesday can provide some compromise or agreement on where the proposed Big Sky Parks and Recreation District boundary should be and how districts can move forward in both areas.

The boundary of the proposed district will be the main focus of Wednesday’s meeting, Hart said.

Morrison was tightlipped Tuesday as to whether or not she and her group would consider a boundary other than the resort tax area, saying she wanted to wait until after the meeting to comment.

But Leeming sees Wednesday’s meeting as more of a continuation of the issue and doesn’t see it working out as proposed.

“I think this is going to be dead in the water again,” she said. “I don’t think anybody can come to a decision on this … There’s a lot of questions to be asked and I honestly think this is just the beginning of round two.”

 

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