Billings City Council gives assisted living a big assist

2014-07-28T21:51:00Z 2014-07-28T23:47:50Z Billings City Council gives assisted living a big assistBy MIKE FERGUSON The Billings Gazette

The Billings City Council unanimously gave the go-ahead Monday to allow a nearly 100-unit assisted-living facility at the southeast corner of S. 44th Street West and Monad Road in the Lenhardt Square Planned Development.

The vote under the special review process was 10-0. Councilman Rich McFadden was not present for the meeting.

“This is going to be a critical need in our community and every other community in the next couple of decades,” said Councilwoman Becky Bird, noting that the facility is expected to provide its residents with memory care as well as assisted living. “We want to make sure the city of Billings has quality and available support for families dealing with various types of dementia.”

Pat Davies, associate principal and senior engineer with Sanderson Stewart, said he expects the developer, Stock-Naughton LLP, to begin construction next spring. He said he expects construction to take 8-12 months.

Neither the police department nor the fire department has concerns about providing their services to the assisted-living center, said Nicole Cromwell, the city’s zoning coordinator and code enforcement supervisor. She said that fire suppression sprinklers will probably be included with the project.

Besides Davies, no one from the public had any comment about the proposal.

Nor did anyone testify about a plan to exchange .81 acres in Cynthia Park, south of Rimrock Road at 50th Street West, with property the exact same size that’s part of Mont Vista Subdivision, first filing. The agreement, said Mark Jarvis, a planner in the Parks and Recreation Department, will allow for the aggregation with other parkland to form a single large park of almost four acres.

“This is a great addition to the area,” said Councilwoman Jani McCall, who joined her nine colleagues in support of the plan, “and I think it’s a good swap.”

The council voted unanimously to wait two weeks before deciding on a management agreement with Zootist Hospitality LLC of Bozeman and the Empire Garage Owner’s Association, the groups — including the city — who have ownership interest in the new garage on Montana Avenue. The garage is scheduled to open next month, said Bruce McCandless, assistant city administrator.

It was McCandless who suggested the City Council might well put off a vote on the language of the management agreement, which needs a little work, he said.

“We want to see if the concept of the agreement is acceptable,” he told the council. “If you want to see the final language, delay action for two weeks.”

More NDO testimony

Most of the testimony on the proposed nondiscrimination ordinance, which is scheduled for a public hearing and, perhaps, a vote by the council on Aug. 11, came from those opposed to the ordinance. Those in opposition have begun dressing in white shirts for City Council meetings — a contrast to the orange-shirted supporters of the proposed ordinance, which would prohibit discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

There’s a “vast difference,” said Dick Pence, between freedom of religion and “the progressive idea of freedom of religion, which is to restrict it to the four walls of the sanctuary during worship.”

The NDO “is bad law,” he said. “You could rewrite it and it would still be bad law.”

If the ordinance is adopted, Donna Braun said she wonders if “people of faith will be able to live and do business according to their faith. Any way it’s rewritten, (the ordinance) will still discriminate against somebody.”

College student Kyndall Miller said she’s concerned that the ordinance will prohibit colleges and universities from featuring single-gender dorms. “Crushing debt and moral decay are already huge burdens” on college students, she said. “This is too messy to deal with.”

John Klier noted that terms found in the NDO, including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender

expression, aren’t found in the U.S. or Montana constitutions. “It is almost like you are rewriting the constitution outside the proper channel,” he said.

Tom Jones predicted the NDO will “create a field day for attorneys.” Terry Forke, a Billings pastor, asked the council to abandon pursuing the NDO “or at least take a second look at the religious-exclusion language” in Section 7-1804, which prohibits employment discrimination.

“This excludes virtually no Christian congregations,” he said.

Dennis Ulvestad was the only one to speak in favor of the NDO. “Transgender people have their convictions too, as does the religious side,” he said.

The NDO “is not going to open up a can of worms, because (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people just want to be accepted into this community.”

He reminded the council that several years ago, a man wearing a tutu used to skate downtown, “and nothing became of it. It was very entertaining.”

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