BIG SKY — Some members of the community in Big Sky are putting on a formal effort to try and incorporate the resort. Currently, Big Sky is officially referred to as an "unincorporated census-designated place" by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Some residents, including Jamie Roberts, who has lived here for decades, think a change like this would be good.
“I think having a more fair and balanced global group of people overseeing the next 30 years of growth will be well received,” said Roberts.
The Resort Tax Chair, Sarah Blechta, and the Executive Director of the Big Sky Resort Area District, Daniel Bierschwale, say the topic is nothing new.
“We just surpassed our 30th year of resort tax here in Big Sky and as far as I'm aware, this has been an ongoing conversation throughout our community over the course of those three decades,” said Bierschwale.
The last time Big sky really discusses incorporating was in 2008. In 2009, then-Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock issued an opinion at the request of the Gallatin County Attorney. In that opinion, Bullock said that a municipality may be organized within the boundaries of a resort area.
Blechta says she and her colleagues want to be transparent and support citizens of Big Sky as they explore the potential of incorporating, but that comes with a lot of questions.
“There are a lot more questions than I think we have answers and so it's something that we're committed to helping find the answers to and something that's really important. So I really think that we want to understand what all the pros and cons are for the community at large,” said Blechta.
The Big Sky Resort Area has a government in the sense of voters are able to elect people within several boards. Bierschwale clarifies that these boards would still have separate powers from a municipality.
“A corporation or a municipal of a municipality would have different powers from those organizations. But as far as the Attorney General's determination and as it relates to the resort area district, the resort area would stay whole is what we know now,” said Bierschwale.
Bierschwale also wants to clear the air of a misconception about incorporating.
“ I think one of the myths that exist here in the Big Sky community is that the property taxes that are supporting and generated the support the government services in both Gallatin and Madison counties since we're intersected between two counties, that those taxes would, in turn, come back through a municipality and that's simply not the case. That is a myth in the fact that those dollars are being generated to cover those services in those areas,” said Bierschwale.
As for Roberts, he thinks it's time for the community to have a say.
“I think in the past few years, there's just been a couple of bigger corporations that are calling all the shots and I think this will give the little guy a better chance to have a say,” said Roberts.
If plans for incorporation move forward, the town would need to petition Gallatin County Commission.
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