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Affordable housing – or not?

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I write as a concerned tax payer in Lake County. I’ve learned the Ronan City Planning Board is reviewing a proposed major subdivision (as defined by Montana law). The proposal is to create a 221 lot subdivision, with allowance to have duplexes for a total of 442 units (w/additional lots in a future review). These lots are planned for an undeveloped property of less than 131 acres on the edge of Ronan and would allow for single or multi-family use. With an average of two individuals in a unit, we’re looking at a substantial increase to the population of Ronan (442-884 residents not including children whom are often found in affordable housing).

These new residents will need city water, sewer, fire and police protection, medical services, and for children – education facilities. I understand K. William Harvey Elementary School is already at capacity and busing students to Pablo. Ronan currently has a shortage of doctors and teachers. Lake County Solid Waste has stated the division would have a substantial effect on Lake County’s solid waste services.

Our current tax base is not keeping pace with community needs. Property taxes will need to increase to handle the influx of new residents demanding services. Water and sewer services will need to be expanded to this undeveloped property and city streets will need to be built. These things occur before any homes or duplexes are built - well before the finished units are paying any property taxes.

The units are being proposed as affordable, however, affordable to whom has not been defined. When pressed for details, we were told at the Planning Board meeting they would probably bring in modular homes to begin with. Note: These would be built offsite by non-local residents. Although modular homes are somewhat more affordable, it must be noted tax revenue on a modular home is much lower than tax revenue on a stick built home of the same size, even though the home needs the same city provided services.

I am a third generation Lake County resident and I am all for affordable housing. I agree such housing is in very short supply. However, I do not believe crowding 221-442 units on a 130.87 acre property is the answer to the problem. We need well-planned smaller subdivisions spread around the city and county with local developers considering the needs of the community and working with city and county officials to match and grow resources to the development with overall quality of life in our community not being compromised. We do not need out-of-state developers bringing in substandard housing that won’t contribute enough to the tax base to support itself making large profits at the expense of Ronan City taxpayers. Can our community afford that? I think not.

If you share my concern, please attend the Planning Board public hearing regarding this matter. Date of public hearing is to be posted. The City of Ronan is required to take final action on or before deadline of Oct. 18. An introductory report for Mission Valley Homesites Phased Major Subdivision dated Aug. 1, 2023 is available at Ronan City Hall. Please let your voice be heard. 

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