Steve Kirchhoff beat me to the punch in remarking on your front page (Dec. 2) article discussing the opportunity zones proposed for Bozeman. Steve makes four very good points concerning whether or not these subsidies: increase the “public good;” simply enhance the speed and profitability of land development; undermine the goal of increasing our affordable housing stock; and, stimulate below-quality development.
Yes, there are legitimate questions especially given the accelerated rate of land development already occurring in and around Bozeman. I, for one, wonder how Bozeman fits the bill as a “low- to middle-income region,” which the program supposedly targets and in light of many areas in Bozeman “already poised for growth.”
Like Steve, I would like more reporting on this issue and how it addresses Bozeman’s “development problems,” most of which would be welcome problems for most communities in Montana, many of whom are desperate for a jump-start on business investment and housing starts.
It seems inconceivable that the governor should classify Bozeman as a low- to median-income area worthy of this designation in the first place, but who can turn down “free money?” If this program is made available to Bozeman, I would hope that the city is prudent in its application, perhaps designating it as one tool to work with the county towards more sound development taking into account proximity to existing infrastructure and minimizing its future carbon footprint. Also, we should all acknowledge that this money isn’t really “free.”