New City Planning Tools for Billings - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

New City Planning Tools for Billings

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The Magic City is facing some important decisions in the coming years: where to put new schools?

"Schools drive growth. Where we have sited schools before, there were not houses around those schools when they were located. They came afterwards." said Candi Beaudry with the City's Planning and Community Services Department.

If School District Two's Facilities Master Plan is fully implemented, at least two middle schools will be built in Billings. Thanks to a grant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a consulting firm is looking at ways to make sure our community will have an intelligent plan for the future.

"the EPA awarded the City of Billings a Smart Growth Implementation Assistance Grant." said Kate Marshall, a consultant with SRI International "The purpose of the EPA project is not to come in and tell communities what they should be doing to better coordinate."

Their goal is to help the city solve urban planning problems, beyond just fiscal concerns. By fall, they will have a planning checklist, as well as a cost calculator ready for the city to use.

"We know that there are a lot of decisions to be made in Billings, with regards to school sitings. Not just this year, but in coming years." said Marshall. Beaudry said properly planning a location for new schools is very important, for the city and its citizens.

"Do we want to ensure that those schools are walkable, because we have a concern about the student health? We have a concern about obesity. Are we gonna continue to put schools in areas where they have to be driven to?" said Beaudry.

Marshall said she hopes other cities across the country will use the tools being developed for Billings as a model for their urban development. SD2 Superintendent Terry Bouck, however, expressed concerns, as the tools will not come in on time for at least the first part of their Facilities Master Plan. He did express optimism, however that it will work for future new schools.

"The timeline for the E-P-A siting process doesn't align with our timeline, so it would be beneficial for future sitings." said Bouck.

"We're hoping these tools will really be a good long-term package for the community." said Marshall.