Residents of the Figgins and Alder Creek neighborhoods just south of Montana State University are rallying against a recent re-zoning proposal that would allow the student-housing construction company Campus Crest to build a large apartment complex in the lots south of Opportunity Way and east of South 11th Street. Nearby community members are outraged at the proposal, believing a student-housing complex would destroy both the value of their properties and the single family feel of their quiet residential neighborhoods.
The source of anger for many of the residents is the fact the land has been zoned as an R1, low-residential density, single-family housing environment since 2001. Some residents claim to have moved to the area solely because of its zoning specifications, seeking a quiet place with little traffic to raise their children. However, if Campus Crest’s proposal to re-zone the land is approved by the city commission, the land will be re-zoned as an R4, high-residential density environment, meaning higher traffic, larger roads, more stores and of course a new student-housing complex.
Residents claim they are not against the empty fields being developed, they simply don’t want the land to be re-zoned to an R4 classification because they would rather keep the environment more conducive to the single-family household lifestyle rather than a bustling social environment full of students commuting to and from campus.
Although the concerned residents may be correct in thinking that re-zoning to an R4 environment would noticeably change the surrounding area as it filled up with college students seeking asylum off campus, they had to have known that this dilemma would come up eventually. Montana State is a growing university with constantly increasing enrollment. Even with the requirement that freshmen live on campus their first year, student-housing complexes within close proximity to campus are still in demand and will most likely remain so as the university continues to gain academic recognition throughout the state and nation.
Many residents opposed to the construction plans are simply claiming that the proposed lots are not the right place for a new student-housing complex. That brings up the question, where is the “right place” for a student-housing complex? For a student-housing complex to be truly for students it must be within walking distance of campus. With the proposed lot just south of Kagy boulevard and the Bobcats football stadium, campus would be within easy walking and biking distance. Residents must realize that all undeveloped land within such close proximity to the university will more than likely be developed with student interests taking precedence over single-family households. After all, the university was here long before many of these families moved to the area.
Some of the angry community members think it will “not be fair” if the city re-zones the land for commercial use and new apartments, but they seem to be forgetting that a zone classification can always be changed if the zoning commission approves of it. Many students are tired of living on campus. It is not fair if students, especially those without cars, have to rent an apartment all the way across Bozeman rather than have the opportunity to live in a brand new housing complex within a few minutes walk of campus.
From the student perspective, the proposed plans for the housing complex are more than desirable. The plans state the complex will consist of twelve buildings with two and three-bedroom apartments including a clubhouse, resort-style pool, gym, basketball courts, volleyball courts, study lounges, game rooms, a coffee bar and of course parking areas. With most students accustomed to only having those kinds of amenities on campus, it is expected that there will be not only approval, but a high demand for the new student-housing complex.
Just like the concerned neighborhood residents, students do not want to live in crime-ridden environments full of thieves and alcohol-induced violence, and the vast majority of students outright oppose any sort of destructive activity that leads to community issues, which forms the basis of the neighborhood residents’ fears. Students should have as much opportunity for clean, safe and affordable housing off campus as they do on campus, and most would argue that living off campus is markedly cheaper than living in the dorms and being forced to pay for a meal plan. The new student-housing complex would provide students with a great place to live, learn and grow as they approach adulthood.
The Bozeman Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the zoning request on February 4th and there will be a public hearing before the City Council on Feb. 24.