Developers seek more time to create One Big Sky Center plan - KULR8.com | Montana's News Leader | Billings, MT

Developers seek more time to create One Big Sky Center plan

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It was the first item on the agenda for Billings City Council's work session Monday, but the discussion for a six-month extension for the One Big Sky Center's development agreement spanned 2 hours as various aspects of the request were examined. 

Skip Ahern, 1 of 3 partners in MontDevCo LLC, the center's development group, formally asked the council for the extended amount of time to create the development plan. Ahern said the reason behind requesting an extension was MontDevCo discovering a financial and developing partner. 

"They will provide the equity, they will provide the debt financing for the entire project," Ahern said Monday. "They have a great history and track record..but, between them and us, we have decided that we're not going to publicly say their name at this point in time."

Ahern said keeping the partner's identity confidential was agreed upon as MontDevCo continues negotiations with the unidentified company. Ahern said the company already met with city administrators, but Mayor Tom Hanel expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the request. 

"I'm having a tough time extending this notice as we still don't know who this partner is," Mayor Hanel said. "I can't imagine it being so secretive that you can't tell us."

Ahern said he felt MontDevCo LLC is 2 to 3 weeks away from signing a partnership agreement with this company, at which time the identity of the partner would be made known. Ahern said an additional 6 months would also allow the unidentified company to conduct further study and involve the community more in the development project. 

Some council members expressed additional concern regarding a lack of communication between developers and the city, requesting an increase in communication, such as progress reports, if the discussion is to continue. 

Mayor Hanel also said Monday that he does not feel any council members are opposed to the One Big Sky Center project, that each ward represents thousands of people and taxpayers and that scrutiny and caution is necessary when it comes to decisions affecting local taxpayer dollars. 

The Billings City Council felt that more discussion was necessary before a decision could be made, so the One Big Sky Center development agreement extension was added to the business agenda for the next city council meeting to be held on June 26th. 

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