Neighbors react to proposed student housing complex near MSU


BOZEMAN, Mont. - A proposed student housing project near Montana State University is causing a controversy among nearby residents. The proposed development site is near South 11th and Opportunity Way on more than 17 acres of undeveloped land, near the Alder Creek neighborhood and Morning Star Elementary School. Residents told NBC Montana they love their neighborhood. "It's gorgeous, it's peaceful, it's quiet," said 12-year resident Sue Lewis. "It's got a nice feel to it, a park behind my house," said resident Henry Kriegel, "I enjoy walking my dog almost everyday around this open field area." But that field he's talking about may not be an open area for long, and the surrounding houses may get new neighbors. A proposed housing complex would take up more than 17 acres and include amenities like a resort-style pool, volleyball court, and a 24-hour gym, and it would be just for Montana State University students to live in. Private development company Campus Crest is making the proposal, and some residents said they are not happy about the plans. "It's not going to be safe for children anymore, and most of these people moved here because of their children," Lewis explained. "Why would a company invest in building more student housing when ultimately down the road there may not be a market for it?" asked Kriegel. He explained he believes more people will turn to online higher education in the future, and the need for on-campus living will be less. Bob Wade lives in the Overbrook Condos nearby, and explained his neighbors didn't like that development either, but thinks there's a need for housing like this. "We live in a university town that's growing," he said. He explained he's in support of the new development. "They definitely need new student housing if anything just for the sheer numbers of how much they want to grow and how fast they want to grow," explained Zach Merrill, a student at MSU. Merrill lives in a rental house in the neighborhood, and said finding housing can be difficult for students, so he would welcome the development. "If you don't put student housing up, what you're going to have is more college kids moving into this housing anyways when they have to leave campus, because there's more room to live there," Merrill said. Kriegel said he doesn't know yet how he feels about the plan; even though he loves the open area and its views, he said it's not really up to him to figure out what gets built there. "You have to honor private property rights," he said, "and you have to find a balance between their rights as owners of property versus the rights of those who own property adjacent to it." City Manager Chris Kukulski said the zoning in that area will have to be changed before Campus Crest can begin development. Campus Crest has submitted their proposal to the Bozeman Zoning Commission, which will hold a public hearing on the zoning request at 6 p.m. on Tuesday Feb. 4 at City Hall. The City Commission will make the final decision whether to rezone the land and move forward with the project.