Some Park County residents and officials are concerned about Xanterra Parks and Resorts’ plan to build employee housing north of town.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Xanterra is planning to build eight homes for potential employees four and a half miles north of Gardiner. Residents such as Beth Sirr, who lives near Xanterra’s proposed housing site, say the project would have too large an impact on her and her neighbors. She’s also concerned that the project won’t be scrutinized the way a normal housing development would. From the Chronicle:
But Sirr is worried about what the houses will mean for her and her neighbors, people who live on a bluff east of Highway 89 off a narrow road that she said can’t support much traffic.
“It’s not designed for people to be running up and down all the time,” she said.
Beyond that, she worries because the homes where Xanterra plans to house some of its seasonal employees won’t be reviewed by the county for a number of things that normal subdivisions are — such as access, impacts to nearby properties or the ability for emergency vehicles to access the property. The homes fall under a policy passed by the commission in 2013 that specifically exempts employee housing from the normal review process that subdivisions or other developments must go through.
“This just doesn’t seem right,” Sirr said.
On Thursday morning, the Park County Commission will meet to discuss any possible changes they might need to make to the 2013 policy and to get the county attorney’s opinion on whether Xanterra is following the law.
County officials said the intent of the policy was to make it easier for guest ranches and companies like Chico Hot Springs to build housing for their employees but not necessarily for any company at all to create cheap housing for its employees.
“It was to benefit those companies that needed to add housing units adjacent to their facility,” said commissioner Marty Malone. “I don’t think it was our intention that they could do it 10 miles away or five miles away.”
Sirr added she believes the Xanterra plan “is not a community-based housing solution,” while acknowledging that housing is somewhat of a dilemma in Gardiner.
Irrespective of whether Park County changes the policy, Xanterra’s development won’t stop, since it was approved under the previous policy, designating it a “work camp.” Indeed, Xanterra has submitted their plan to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, saying the development is a “private work camp for fewer than 25 people.”
Xanterra spokesman Rick Hoeninghausen told the Chronicle the company needs the development to house year-round employees—especially managers—who are otherwise limited in their housing search in Gardiner and Mammoth.