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New West Daily Roundup for Sept. 19, 2016

Today in New West news: walkability in Bozeman, court alleges fraud against two CO “pod” growers, lawyers seek neighbors in $375M settlement, and Wyoming ETS up for national awards.

Bozeman, Montana is a hot community right now; people flock to it for the stunning views, or close proximity to wilderness and natural splendor, or for a good education, or just to get away from “city” life. Unfortunately for those romantics, “city” life is alive and well in Bozeman, especially as the population continues to swell. Sprawl and building enough housing to meet demand is of primary concern to Bozeman residents and developers, but there’s another issue tied up in this as well: walkability.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, walkability in Bozeman is becoming a bigger and bigger issue, tying together all the concerns implicit in sprawl and housing. And with walkability comes a concern for cars—namely, where you’re going to keep all those cars. From the Chronicle:

As Bozeman grows, forcing the Gallatin Valley to find ways to accommodate thousands of new residents a year, those aren’t idle questions.

Cars, after all, are the single biggest challenge that comes with density, a primary bugaboo in the notion that building up instead of sprawling out provides a way for the Bozeman area to handle its swelling population.

Smart growth types wax poetic about the virtues of dense, walkable neighborhoods, full of fit, healthy residents greeting their neighbors as they go about their daily business — their smog-producing cars relegated to occasional use. But the Bozeman of 2016 is still a community very much built around motor transportation, a place where it’s difficult, to say the least, to get around as a working adult without a personal vehicle.

As a result, parking capacity and its twin gremlin, traffic congestion, have emerged as primary concerns around development proposals that aim to provide a large amount of housing in multi-story buildings.


What exactly would it take to see Bozeman become a broadly walkable and bikeable community — not just in the downtown core but throughout its newer subdivisions? And what are the chances we’ll be able to pull that vision off in the coming years?

The answers to that first question, at least, sort themselves into two categories: infrastructure and destinations.

On an infrastructure front, walkability comes down to sidewalks, bike lanes and shared-use paths, which make it safe and convenient to get from one part of town to another without burning gas.

In that sense, Bozeman is probably in OK shape — under city policy adopted in 2010, most new subdivisions have been built with sidewalks and bike lanes.

A few of the city’s key arterials are still missing pedestrian accommodations — Baxter Lane between Davis Lane and 19th Avenue, for example, or Kagy Boulevard between 19th and 11th Avenue — but many of those gaps are on the city’s radar, with projects to patch them up scheduled in the coming years.

The destination front ends up being a harder nut to crack, however. While Bozeman’s aggressive parkland dedication requirements mean newer neighborhoods tend to be well-stocked with parks and trails, the city is left at the mercy of economics when it comes to encouraging neighborhood businesses.

Bozeman’s older south side neighborhoods, many platted before post-World War II development shifted American cities to car-centric land use patterns, tend to be conveniently located near commercial establishments, both clusters of restaurants around the Montana State campus and the city’s primary commercial district, downtown.

As walkability becomes an increasingly sought amenity for home buyers, that’s making homes in downtown-area neighborhoods hot real estate commodities. While homes in the city’s fast-growing northwest quadrant aren’t necessarily cheap, with typical list prices ranging from north of $300,000 to the mid-$400,000s, according to real estate website Zillow, typical listings in the south side historic districts are downright out of reach for buyers with modest incomes, more like $700,000 or $800,000.

And, with the city’s commercial life focused on downtown and strip-style development along 19th, whole swaths of comparatively affordable west Bozeman remain something of a commercial desert — devoid of the corner stores, coffee shops and neighborhood cafes that could be the difference between a Sunday drive and a Sunday stroll.

There’s also a discrepancy in development within Bozeman. For instance, it takes less time for someone living on Bozeman’s southside to walk to city services than for someone living on the westside.

Down in Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal, a pair of businessman behind a “pods” business, geared at growing food and marijuana in repurposed shipping containers, have been barred from securities trading and face criminal charges for obfuscating stock ownership from securities regulators:

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Colorado has charged William Sears, 50, of Thornton, and Scott Dittman, 47, formerly of Elizabeth, with a count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission “by impeding, impairing, defeating and obstructing” the agency’s lawful governmental functions.

The alleged conspiracy includes the offenses of securities fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

Sears also faces a count of filing a false income tax return, prosecutors said Friday.

Dittman, the brother-in-law of Sears, was CEO and president of Commerce City-based FusionPharm Inc. The company manufactured refurbished steel shipping containers, called PharmPods, that had built-in lighting systems and were designed for commercial growing operations in urban environments.

A related company, called Vertifresh, was in the business of supplying lettuce to restaurants that was purported to be grown in PharmPods. Vertifresh supplied Mad Greens restaurants for a while.

Dittman and Sears owned a majority of the shares in FusionPharm but hid Sears’ involvement in order to sell shares and falsely prop up the business, according to investigators’ accounts.

The SEC alleges Sears made $12.2 million selling FusionPharm shares while representing himself as a securities broker-dealer and hiding his connection to FusionPharm. Some of that money was funneled back into FusionPharm to be falsely reported as revenue, investigators allege.

“Sears and Dittman misled investors by recording and trumpeting revenues for purported sales of PharmPods when they were really just round-tripping money from illegal stock sales by hidden affiliates,” said Julie Lutz, director of the SEC’s Denver Regional Office, in a written statement.

If convicted, Sears and Dittman would face up to five years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines. Sears could face an additional three years in prison and $250,000 fine since he allegedly filed a false income tax return.

Keeping with Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal, lawyers recently reached a $375 million settlement with the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant around Standley Lake and are looking for neighbors to share in the bounty. Neighbors from 1989, that is. From the DBJ:

Earlier this year, a 26-year lawsuit filed by Rocky Flats neighbors was finally settled for $375 million.

Now, lawyers are looking for homeowners who owned property in the area on June 7, 1989.

Up to 15,000 Rocky Flats neighbors may be eligible for settlement money in the suit, filed against the plant’s operators, Rockwell International Corp. and Dow Chemical Co., for devaluing the neighbors’ property values.

“Did you own property near and downwind from the former Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant in Denver, Colorado on June 7, 1989? Are you an heir of someone who did? Are you the successor of an entity that did? If so, you could get money from a proposed $375 million class action settlement,” lawyers asked today in a statement.

Finally, over in Wyoming, the state’s Department of Enterprise Technology Services (ETS)has been nominated in two award categories through the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, according to the Wyoming Business Report. The Wyoming ETS has been nominated for Enterprise IT Management Initiatives (for its Extendable Code Library) and Information Communications Technology Innovations (for the Wyoming Unified Network). From the WBR:

The Wyoming Unified Network is a 100-gigabit statewide network backbone. Improving broadband access and technology in the state has been made a priority by Gov. Matt Mead.

“The ETS department has earned this recognition,” said the Mead. “The Unified Network provides broadband service across Wyoming. Accessible, reliable broadband service is key in encouraging new business growth and recruiting companies.

“I congratulate Director Flint Waters and the folks at ETS.”

Waters said the Extendable Code Library helps Wyoming “pursue its goals surrounding technology.”

“We are breaking with tradition in reinventing how government designs, procures and deploys cloud solutions,” Waters said. “Building solutions for agencies and our partners to expand, reinvents the spirit of government and private partnerships as we lift people, businesses and government services to the cloud.”

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