This map shows the number of minimum-wage hours per week required to afford market-price rent of a two-bedroom house in each of Montana’s 56 counties. Counties in blue and teal require 60-70 hours of minimum wage labor, while green counties require 70-80 hours and red counties require over 80 hours per week. Madison County market rent requires 71 hours per week. (Montana Budget & Policy Center)

Planning board approves new Yellowstone Club subdivisions

VIRGINIA CITY—At its monthly meeting on Monday, September 24, the Madison County Planning Board held a public hearing to decide the fate of a 4.3-acre tract in the Yellowstone Club area of Big Sky.

Just last month the county commissioners approved the new Overall Development Plan (ODP) for the Moonlight Basin area, as suggested by the planning board. On Monday, focus shifted to the Yellowstone Club and a request to split those 4.3 acres from a larger tract into one single-family residential lot. 

Representatives from the Yellowstone Club and the Vista Minor Subdivision presented the proposal, which would require few adjustments. The planning board’s standard examinations were all either approved or did not apply to the parcel in question. 

The lot sits in what used to be the location of Big Sky Ski Resort’s beginner chairlift, which was recently removed when the resort’s beginner programs were moved to a different part of the ski area.

The lot is located west of Miller Lane and south and east of Cabin Road, which has been newly repaved. County planners found no violations, and the proposal was unanimously approved. 

The parcel will be sold, and whoever purchases it will have to go through the Yellowstone Club’s and Madison County’s standard building requirements, including those in place for the protection of Big Sky’s wildlife populations and ecosystems.

County planner Charity Fechter also gave a recap of her time at this year’s Montana Association of Planners (MAP) conference, which was held September 12-14 at the Lodge and Whitefish Lake.

The MAP conference included speakers on everything from Montana Law to the expansion of grizzly bear range, and attendees reviewed a number of relevant planning-oriented lawsuits from around the country in order to improve the application of laws back in their respective Montana counties.

Fechter presented information on several of these suits to the planning board on Monday, and also drew the board’s attention to a document put out by the Montana Budget and Policy Center (MBPC) concerning affordable rent across the state.

The MBPC collated research on statewide availability of affordable rentals, the percentage of renters living below the poverty line and rental households for all of Montana’s 56 counties, but the benchmark that caught the planning board’s eye most was the number of hours a minimum wage worker would need to put in to afford the market rent of a two-bedroom house in each county. 

“We’ve got some serious problems,” said board member Pat Bradley on looking at the statewide numbers. 

In Madison County, a worker making minimum wage would have to work 71 hours per week to afford that two-bedroom rental.

The MBPC also reported that 23 percent of Madison County residents are renters, compared to around a third statewide. Fair market rent in Madison County is $750, and the average a minimum-wage employee could pay without spending over 30 percent of their income would be just under $470.

County planner Leona Stredwick mentioned that the problems are statewide, which is true: the fewest minimum-wage hours required to afford a market-priced rental was 64, and over half of Montana’s counties shared that number, including Beaverhead, Powell, Mineral, Glacier and Deer Lodge counties. 

The highest in the state was Billings’ Yellowstone County, at 81, a metric it shares with Park, Carbon and Missoula counties. Jefferson and Gallatin counties were just behind those, requiring 80 minimum-wage hours per week to afford market rent.

The availability of affordable housing in Madison County has been a perennial issue for both Madison County’s commissioners and the planning board. The commissioners heard a proposal for constructing more low-income and temporary housing earlier this summer, but an action plan has not yet been decided upon as to how to create more affordable housing.

More information on the MBPC’s affordable housing report can be found at The Madison County planning board will hold its last meeting of 2018 on Monday, October 29 at 6 p.m. in the county administrative building.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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