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Courtesy of Johnson Nathan Strohe Architects

New West Daily Roundup for Nov. 28, 2016

Today in New West news: Bozeman leaders discuss planning documents, MSU registers newly discovered bacterium for commercial use, federal dams and Northwest salmon, and Englewood’s new economic incentives program.

Over the past few months, we’ve been following the city of Bozeman’s internal debate over the future of housing and development, with a special focus on the Black-Olive project, a five-story apartment building slated to be built near a historically single family home neighborhood. The Bozeman City Commission has ruled that the project, derided by nearby residents as too tall and “out of character” with the rest of the city, by and large meets city building codes.

For some residents, however, that’s not enough. Indeed, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the Commission will meet tonight to discuss the city’s planning documents, which residents say rule against developments like Black-Olive:

While agenda materials say the commission plans no immediate action on the issue Monday, the conversation will provide a barometer into the body’s thinking as it prepares to ponder developer Andy Holloran’s contentious Black-Olive proposal.

If ultimately approved by the commission, the Black-Olive project would create a five-story apartment building on the south side of downtown, adjacent to single family homes in a historic district.

As the proposal has come under criticism from neighbors for its scale and potential impacts, Holloran has argued that it’s the style of development sought by the city’s 2009 Downtown Bozeman Improvement Plan, which calls for building hundreds of units of urban-density housing in the downtown core in order to provide more customers for downtown businesses.

Neighbors, however, have countered that building a mid-rise building adjacent to houses contradicts portions of the Bozeman Community Plan, also adopted in 2009.

One of the community plan’s goals, for instance, is to see Bozeman’s environment “composed of neighborhoods designed for the human scale,” with streets and buildings “properly sized within their context.”

It also calls for strengthening the city’s historic core “to preserve the community character, economic resource and historical connection represented by this area.”

Given that and similar provisions, Black-Olive neighbors have said they’re confused about how the city’s adopted zoning policy can allow proposals like the five-story building, which would meet height requirements in the site’s downtown B-3 zoning district despite being substantially taller than most of its surroundings.

A commission briefing memo, prepared by longtime city planner Chris Saunders and new planning director Marty Matsen in advance of Monday’s hearing, makes an attempt to explain the convoluted hierarchy of city planning documents. Those range from broad-brush visions like the community plan to the nitty-gritty regulations that define what would-be developers can and can’t do with their property.

Keeping with Montana, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Montana State University has recently registered a “naturally occurring bacterium” (discovered on campus) that officials say has readily apparent plant-disease fighting capabilities:

This is the first time MSU has had a technology registered by the Environmental Protection Agency for commercial use. Canada says it intends to register the bacterium for use, and other countries are expected to follow suit.

The bacterium, BmJ WG, was discovered and named “Bacillus mycoides isolate J” by Barry Jacobsen, associate director of the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station and professor of plant sciences and plant pathology.

It’s licensed by Certis USA, a leading manufacturer and distributor of biotreatments for plant pests and diseases.

Jacobsen originally isolated the bacterium in 1994 from a field of sugar beets near Sidney that had been devastated by a Cercospora leaf spot outbreak. Jacobsen’s early research showed the bacterium activated the natural immune defenses of plants against bacterial, viral and fungal diseases.

“When I first started working with this I thought we really had something special with which to protect sugar beets,” Jacobsen said. “Subsequent research by Certis discovered it could do more than I ever dreamed. It is so gratifying to see how this will help protect so many different crops around the world.”

Certis’ research found the bacterium can fight off diseases in almonds, citrus crops, cole crops (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.), all cucurbits (squash, zucchini, pumpkins), tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillo, okra, lettuce, legumes, pecans, apples, pears and other pome fruits, potatoes, spinach and sugar beets.

The patented BmJ spray, called LifeGard, is expected to provide farmers with an alternative to traditional chemical crop treatments. It was just approved by the Organic Material Review Institute for use in organic production.

Over in Idaho, we previously reported that U.S. District Judge Michael Simon of Portland, Oregon had reignited hope among area environmentalists, conservationists, anglers, and others that the federal government could eventually remove four dams from along the Snake River. The ruling stipulated that Army Corps officials failed to consider the dams’ impact on spawning salmon across the Columbia River system and opens the possibility of said dams being breached.

Now, according to the Idaho Statesman, amid concern that rising ocean temperatures, coupled with dam interference, are impacting wild steelhead, jack, and Chinook salmon populations, officials across the state are lending credence to the proposal.

The decision, however, is potentially fraught with difficulties. Per the Statesman, 14 dams along the Columbia and Snake Rivers provide 65 percent of electricity to residents of the Columbia watershed, and help prop up various area industries (agriculture, food processing, technology, and shipping, among others). But salmon is big business too—to say nothing of the fish’s importance among Native American tribes living in the Columbia watershed. From the Statesman:

[Judge Simon’s] not the only one telling the agencies they need to do more if they hope to recover salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake, especially in light of a changing climate that is affecting mountain snowpacks, river temperatures, migration seasons and even ocean conditions. In 2015, nearly all of the returning Snake River sockeye that spawn in the Sawtooth Basin died in the warmer waters of the Columbia and its tributaries. Cooler weather and more careful river management prevented a repeat in 2016.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, also know as NOAA Fisheries, just issued a draft recovery plan for Snake River spring and summer chinook. The plan, which largely depends on voluntary actions by federal agencies, states, Indian tribes, industry and landowners, concludes that salmon productivity has to be improved beyond what is being done today.

Ritchie Graves, the NOAA Fisheries biologist who oversees hydropower, said it will take a comprehensive approach that includes controlling fish predators such as birds, seals and otters, and improving estuary habitat. But it also will take more work on the dams, which he hopes this new review process brings.

“The one thing that kind of stands out is that Judge Simon expects the Corps of Engineers is going to come up with some action that is going to improve the productivity of salmon and steelhead,” Graves said.

Specifically, Simon told the agencies the review needed to consider breaching the four dams on the lower Snake River in Washington state: Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor. For nearly 20 years, a consensus of fisheries biologists has said removing the four dams would remove obstacles and improve river flow and fish passage enough to recover wild Snake River salmon and steelhead.

The dams produce more than 1,000 annual megawatts of electricity and have the capacity to produce electricity within minutes to respond to peaking demands and to balance use across the region’s power grid. And even though shipping on the Snake River has dropped steadily over the past 20 years, 10 percent of the nation’s wheat is still barged to market from ports in Idaho and Washington.

Finally, over in Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal, the City of Englewood is rolling out a new economic incentives program aimed at stoking business in the area, with a particular focus on startups and retailers:

The former incentive program was described by the city’s new community development director as a “one- size-fits- all” approach. No doubt, he said, the old program helped jump start key projects – grocery stores and apartment buildings.

But now, the city, which is 6.5 square miles and 100 percent built out finds itself in a new era, said Brad Power, who took the city development helm eight months ago.

Some retail spaces sit empty. Some need to be revamped. Some need to be expanded.

“I wanted to look at, where the sweet spots are,” Power said. “We really want to attract jobs to the community – not necessarily 900 people, but 10 to 50 who want that next place to be.”

The new incentives program, which kicks off Jan. 1, focuses on startup businesses, training for business owners, tax credits and it offers commercial and industrial site selection for prospective tenants and developers.

“This new policy represents a step forward for our economic development efforts,” said Englewood Mayor Joe Jefferson.

The new program in multi-pronged, but it includes a $2,500 initiation grant for new to Englewood businesses. Any business owner who opens a new store in the city is eligible for the grant. Owners also must complete a business-training program through the Aurora South Metro Small Business Development Center.

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