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Greg Lemon

Designing the New West: Thoughts From Green Builders and Designers

Green is still the buzzword when it comes to new construction and the afternoon panel at the Designing the New West Conference Friday in Bozeman addressed the realities of it in the construction and design world. Some of the nuggets from the panel: “I don’t view green building as a product,” said Don MacArthur, from MMW Architects. “It’s a process toward a product.” Robert Young, executive director of the Red Feather Development Group, builds sustainable straw bale housing on reservations. Green construction for Red Feather is almost an accident, he said. They look to utilize local material and construction to provide an energy efficient home. “It’s always about getting a roof over somebody’s head,” Young said.

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Transportation Director: Montana Is Ready To Spend Stimulus Money

The Montana Department of Transportation is receiving $211 million extra dollars from the federal government through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for projects this year, says MDT director Jim Lynch. On a typical year Montana can expect about $300 million for transportation projects from the federal government. With the extra ARRA money, the state will have more than $500 million to spend this year. “(Congress) wanted to get it out into the states and out into contractors hands as quickly as possible,” he said. The ARRA is largely misunderstood by the general public, Lynch said. At its heart, it's about jobs

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Density And Redevelopment Key To Mountain West Cities

Community redevelopment, density and pricing are going to be important issues moving forward from the recession in New West urban centers. “I deal with a lot of naysayers,” said Roger Millar, director of Missoula City/County Office of Planning and Grants. “They tell me density and mixed-use development is ugly.” But the fact is cities, like Missoula, have fewer homes with children. So the sprawling development patterns, which are sustainable anyway, are going to be unnecessary and unwanted. Part of the future will be looking at creative ways to redevelop existing neighborhoods, said Ben Lloyd from Comma-Q Architecture, Inc. in Bozeman. This redevelopment will require density, which people in the West will have to become more comfortable with.

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Recession Offers Opportunity for Longer-Range Planning, Design

In the depths of a recession, there are ample opportunities for more thoughtful planning, architecture and design, panelists said Friday at the Designing the New West conference in Bozeman. Andy Epple, planning director for the city of Bozeman says is appears the economy is at its very bottom, and that means a slow down in the city planning office. That, he says, has allowed some discussions to happen that didn't or couldn't when times were busy. The slow down has also seemed to stimulate good development, Epple said, referring to two projects the planning department is currently considering: a condo unit near downtown and an urban redevelopment project.

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Researcher: Northern Rockies Housing Market Near Bottom, Will Rebound Soon

As the national economy comes out of the recession and sets a course for the future, changes in demographics are going to radically shift demands for housing, not only in the Mountain West, but around the country. This was the message from Arthur C. Nelson, presidential professor and director of Metropolitan Research at the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Utah, who was the keynote speaker at the Designing the New West Conference in Bozeman Friday. “Now is the time to think ahead about the new paradigm that will come – it’s already well underway,” Nelson said.

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Bozeman Mayor Asks City Employees to Give Up Pay Raises

In her annual State of the City address this week, Bozeman’s Mayor Kaaren Jacobson asked city employees to voluntarily forgo their annual pay increase to help save jobs at the city. “I come to you at a time that’s not nearly as rosy as a mere 12 months ago,” Jacobson said in opening her speech, which she gave as part of the regular commission meeting Monday night. The mayor described a fiscal forecast that has revenues increasing for the city at a smaller rate than last year – 3.5 percent rather than 7.5 percent. This projected increase translates into about $350,000 dollars in revenue, she said.

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“Blue Man in a Red State”: An Excerpt

New West contributor Greg Lemon is a Montana journalist specializing in politics, and he recently published his first book, Blue Man in a Red State: Montana's Governor Brian Schweitzer and the New Western Populism (Globe Pequot Press, 150 pages, $22.95). The following is an excerpt from the book, covering the time Schweitzer spent in the Middle East in his mid-twenties. Lemon will discuss his book at the Borders in Bozeman on September 6 (2 p.m.). Montana's Gov. Brian Schweitzer knew in college that he wanted to see the world. Given the fact that he was a farm kid from Geyser, Mont., Schweitzer figured his best chance to see the world was through farming. He majored in international agriculture at Colorado State University and earned his Master's degree in tropical soils from Montana State University. His first job out of college at the age of 25 took him to the Middle East to work as an agronomist on the massive project to farm the desert for the Libyan government.

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Utah Supreme Court Weighs In On Stream Access Debate

Turns out Montana isn't the only state with contentious stream access issues. On Friday, the Utah Supreme court issued what sportsmen in the state are calling a landmark decision essentially giving the public the right to wade and fish natural streams. According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, the case stems from a running conflict between a group of landowners who own land on the Weber River and a couple, Kevin and Jodi Conatser, who like to float the river.

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Montana AG’s Opinion Highlights Urban-Rural Divide on Zoning

Montana's Attorney General issued an opinion this week that gives voters living in incorporated communities a vote on any countywide referendum, initiative or ordinance – specifically zoning ordinances. Mike McGrath made the call in a case over who should have been able to vote in 2006 on two controversial Ravalli County zoning ordinances. According to some, this decision could have far-reaching implications for county residents across the state, because it gives voters living in cities a voice in county land-use regulations. Other say county land-use regulations affect city residents too, so every voter in the county should be able to have a say.

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Bitterroot Communities Look to Collaborate on Zoning

Countywide zoning is going to impact the communities of Ravalli County, but just what those impacts are and how the county and towns will limit or mitigate them are, as yet, unanswered questions. But one message from county and community officials is clear: everyone will need to continue to work together. “It’s generally the right thing to do because clearly any zoning we do around the existing incorporated communities can affect how they end up growing,” said Karen Hughes, director of the Ravalli County planning department.

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