Commercial and New Residential


Roman Catholic Bishop Of Great Falls/ Langlas & Assoc., Inc.,  3 Broadwater Ave, Com Addition, $400,000

DLB/ JMS LLC, 1414 4th Ave N, Com Addition, $10,000

Alliance Management/  Great States Construction, 4427 Altay Dr, Com Footing/Foundation, $501,570

Americo Real Estate Company/ Americo Real Estate Construction, 1515 Grand Ave, Com Remodel, $1,420,000

Melissa Fuller/ Beartooth Holding & Construction, 1686 Shiloh Rd,  Com Remodel,  $75,000

SCL Health/ Hardy Construction Co., 1106 N 30th St, Com Remodel, $50,000

Joey Pickett/ Air Controls Billings Inc., 2205 Grand Ave, Com Remodel, $8,000

Kendall, Larry G/ Bradford Roof Management Inc, 1091 S 25th St W, Com Fence/Roof/Siding,  $67,633  

Alliance Management/ Great States Construction, 4430 Altay Dr, Com New Other, $15,113,587

City Roasting Company, LLC/  Jones Construction, Inc, 3138 Gabel Rd, Com Remodel, $350,000

Grabos LLC/ Jones Construction, Inc, 1500 Poly Dr, Com Remodel, $500

Montana Prime Meats, 524 Liberty St, Com Remodel, $500

LKF Investments LLC/ LC Custom Homes, 2044 Broadwater Ave, Com Remodel, $60,000

BCJM Properties LLC/ Studer Construction Company, 101 N 24th St, Demolition Permit Commercial,  $154,000

Billings Food Bank Inc/ Centimark Corp Tpo, 2112 4th Ave N, Com Fence/Roof/Siding $216,358

Jackson Court, LLLP/ Golden Eagle Construction, 3602 Jackson Ct,

NA/ 3606 Jackson Ct, Com New 3+ (Multi Family, $782,925

NA/ 3610 Jackson Ct, Com New 3+ (Multi Family), $782,925

 NA/ 3614 Jackson Ct, Com New 3+ (Multi Family), $782,925

NA/ 3607 Jackson Ct, Com New 3+ (Multi Family), $782,925

NA/ 3603 Jackson Ct, Com New 3+ (Multi Family), $782,925

Billings 13 Re Llc/ Sletten Construction Companies,

3975 King Ave W, Com New Restaurant/Casino/Bar, $3,300,000

Yellowstone County / Safetech, Inc, 2825 3rd Ave N, Com Remodel $41,326

Nathan Matelitch/ Neumann Construction, Building Misc,  Com Remodel – Change In Use, $69,000


Buscher Construction/ Buscher Construction Ltd,  4936 Whisper Way, Res New Single Family, $300,000

Buscher Development Inc/ Buscher Construction Ltd, 4960 Whisper Way, Res New Single Family, $300,000

Infinity Home/ Infinity Home LLC, 912 Ortega St, Res New Single Family, $219,719

Infinity Homes / Infinity Home LLC, 2463 Bonito Loop, Res New Single Family,  $321,368

Scott Fradenburgh, 1035 Beringer Way, Res New Single Family, $491,253

Infinity Home/ Infinity Home LLC, 2213 Entrada Rd, Res New Single Family, $241,855

Infinity Home/ Infinity Home LLC, 2217 Entrada Rd, Res New Single Family, $195,796

Magnus Land Development LLC, 6409 Signal Peak Ave, Res New Single Family, $0.00

Magnus Land Development LLC , 6409 Signal Peak Ave, Res New Single Family, $0.00

McCall Homes/ McCall Development, 1807 St George Blvd, Res New Single Family, $249,531

Magnus Land Development LLC, 6330 Beckville Ln, Res New Townhome, $0.00

Magnus Land Development LLC, 6330 Beckville Ln, Res New Townhome, $0.00

Magnus Land Development LLC, 6313 Beckville Ln, Res New Townhome, $0.00

Magnus Land Development LLC, 6313 Beckville Ln, Res New Townhome, $0.00

Magnus Land Development LLC/ Brown Builders Inc., 6409 Signal Peak Ave,

Res New Two Family, $326,204

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/ WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 1002 Matador Ave, Res New Single,  $190,062

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/ WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 1006 Matador Ave, Res New Single Family, $197,200

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/ WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 927 Presidio Ln, Res New Single Family, $197,200

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/ WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 1018 Matador Ave, Res New Single Family, $288,788

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/ WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 1022 Matador Ave, Res New Single Family, $193,062

WH High Sierra 50 LLC/ WH High Sierra 50 LLC (Williams Homes), 929 Mission Oaks Dr, Res New Single Family, $197,200

Jeffrey C Leischner Trust, 2812 Orchard Dr, Res New Single Family,  $350,000

WH Copper Ridge 54, LLC/ WH Copper Ridge 54, LLC, 7008 Copper Sunset Dr, Res New Single Family, $362,036

WH Copper Ridge 54, LLC/ WH Copper Ridge 54, LLC, 7019 Copper Sunset Dr, Res New Single Family, $305,034

WH Copper Ridge 54, LLC/ WH Copper Ridge 54, LLC, 7007 Copper Sunset Dr, Res New Single, Family, $264,526

WH Copper Ridge 54, LLC, 7013 Copper Sunset Dr, WH Copper Ridge 54 LLC, $331,810

WH Copper Ridge 54 LLC/ WH Copper Ridge 54, LLC, 7014 Copper Sunset Dr, Res New Single Family, $362,798

Calvin Fry/ Square Butte Builders LLC,  865 El Rancho Dr, Res New Single Family, $266,685

Calvin Fry/ Square Butte Builders LLC, 871 El Rancho Dr, Res New Single Family, $296,076

Magnus Land Development LLC, 6413 Signal Peak Ave, Res New Single Family, $0.00

Magnus Land Development LLC, 6413 Signal Peak Ave, Res New Single Family, $0.00

Magnus Land Development LLC, 6305 Beckville Ln, Res New Single Family, $0.00

Magnus Land Development LLC, 6305 Beckville Ln, Res New Single Family, $0.00

Magnus Land Development LLC/ Brown Builders Inc., 6413 Signal Peak Ave, Res New Two Family, $0.00

Magnus Land Development LLC/ Brown Builders Inc., 6305 Beckville Ln, Res New Two Family, $327,260

Mike Christensen, 4819 Gold Creek Trl, Res New Single Family, $372,140

CDH, LLC/ CDH, LLC, 5225 Dovetail Ave, Res New Single Family, $333,126

CDH, LLC/ CDH, LLC, 5346 Dovetail Ave, Res New Single Family, $277,221

CDH, LLC/ CDH, LLC, 5402 Dovetail Ave, Res New Single Family, $314,927

CDH, LLC/ CDH, LLC, 5318 Dovetail Ave, Res New Single Family, 315,370

McCall Homes/ McCall Development, 1872 St George Blvd, Res New Single Family, $295,774

Nathan Garber started LeoN Holding Company in Kalispell a year ago as a full-service mini storage business. The company now plans to expand into Oklahoma. The company contributes to local non-profits such as the Boys and Girls Club of Glacier County and th Habitat for Humanity. Garber also plans on adding a new office and hiring additional staff in the Flathead Valley.

Marathon Petroleum will not be adding production growth capital to its 2022 budget in any of its plays. That’s regardless of whether commodity prices continue to rise. Marathon plams to emphaze return of capital to shareholders during 2022.

As of April 1, First Interstate will be eliminating non-sufficient funds charges and reducing overdraft fees, to offer flexibility intended to create a little extra breathing room for clients. First Interstate will make many changes including the elimination of non-sufficient fund charges and a reduction in overdraft fees from $30 to $10.

A 17-page comment letter has been submitted by North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources and the Division of Air Quality. The letter claims the EPA’s methane emissions proposal exceeds the limits of its authority under both the Clean Air Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. With production of over 500 million barrels of oil per year and over 900 million cubic feet of natural gas, North Dakota has a vested interest in the rules proposed by EPA to further regulate methane emissions. The proposed rules are not needed as North Dakota already successfully regulates GHG emissions from the oil and natural gas sector through the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality and the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

North Dakota Rig counts have reached 34 during February . That’s a two-year high since the pandemic began, which follows the national trend. The exceptionally tight labor pool has affected North Dakota’s potential rig count. The oil and gas sector is working on more gas infrastructure, to improve areas where takeaway capacity has been a challenge and to add to overall capacity out of the Bakken. Lack of adequate gas infrastructure can set a  low ceiling on the Bakken’s potential oil production.

British Columbia-based Teck Resources Ltd. has added a third water treatment plant that cleaned the waters of Fording River in Canada of coal mining pollution. The clean water drains into Montana’s Kootenai River and Lake Koocanusa.

Dale Greenwalt has been collecting ancient insects from the Flathead’s Middle Fork as a resident research associate with the Smithsonian Institution. His most famous find is a rare fossilized mosquito found engorged with ancient blood, likely from a bird of the Middle Eocene. Dale and a research partner have published this year the findings of several new midge species and one delicate mosquito larvae. Scientists praise the region for its unique ability to help record natural history through some of the rarest, most delicate of olden insects: tiny winged flies in their respective pupal and larval stages.

Carolina and Jake Balliew are opening the Lakeside Distillery in Townsend soon. The distillery will be located at 201 Broadway Street. Everything produced at the distillery is made with Montana products. In the summer he will harvest his grain himself in the Choteau area.

In Gallatin County, there were 20.2% fewer new listings in January 2022 than the same month last year, falling from 104 to 83. Pending sales decreased 12.5%, from 104 to 91. Closed sales decreased 6.5%, from 77 to 72. The average number of days homes spent on the market increased 32.1%, from 28 to 37. Median sales prices jumped 45.1%, from $560,000 to $812,750, and sellers received 97.8% of their list price, down slightly from 99.7% last January. The inventory of homes for sale dropped 34.6% from 136 to 89. The months supply of inventory decreased 22.2%, from 0.9 to 0.7.

As part of his charge to improve customer service and modernize technology in state government, Governor Greg Gianforte announced the launch of a new mobile app from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP). FWP’s new app will allow Montanans to access their hunting and fishing licenses with their phone, reducing the need to secure and carry around paperwork while they fish and hunt. The new app, MyFWP, provides Montana sportsmen and women a simple, easy way to store and display licenses, permits, and digital carcass tags, known as E-Tags, which can be used in the field without cellular service. In addition to storing and displaying licenses and permits in a digital wallet, the MyFWP app gives hunters the option to digitally validate an E-Tag instead of a traditional paper carcass tag. This can be done even if the hunter is out of cell service. 

U.S. manufacturers continue to post strong growth, although at a more moderate level compared to the record activity that defined 2021. February’s most critical industrial reports instead suggest continued signs of relief in supply chain pressures and labor shortages, among other developments

Following his announcement of a $6 million investment in rapid workforce training, Governor Greg Gianforte joined Carroll College President John Cech to announce a portion of the funds will be used for the rapid training of nurses and clinical social workers at Carroll College. As a partner of Accelerate Montana, Carroll College received a $440,000 grant to provide scholarships for the College’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Social Work programs. The scholarships, 32 in all, will offset up to $12,500 of tuition and fee costs per student in these programs, which prepare students to enter high-wage, high-demand jobs in Montana’s health care sector. 

By Bob Pepalis, The Center Square

Montana taxpayers shouldn’t worry about the state’s budget once the influx of federal money runs out because of the approach state lawmakers took last session, according to a taxpayer advocacy group.

Revenue estimates by Montana’s Legislative Fiscal Division range from $181 million above forecasts to $956 million higher than set in the Legislature’s joint balance budget resolution passed in January 2021.

“How long does that surplus go on? Because most analysts here think it’s mainly driven by the federal stimulus money,” Bob Story, executive director of the Montana Taxpayers Association, told The Center Square.

Income and corporate taxes have also been a big a part of the state’s budget.

Individual income tax collections through the end of December were $114.2 million, which was 12.7% above the year-to-date collections in fiscal year 2021, the Legislative Fiscal Division report said.

Even without a surplus, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte is expected to work on lowering income tax rates, something he accomplished in the last legislative session. In next year’s session, Story said he expects more legislation to further reduce rates, which would happen even without the big budget surplus.

“That was kind of one of his goals all along was to try to bring down, get back in line again with some of the surrounding states’ income tax rates,” he said.

Corporate income tax collections through the end of December were 29%, or $33.9 million above this time in fiscal year 2021, which was far above estimates.

Coal, oil and gas tax revenues have been down a bit, but might be coming back up, Story said.

But federal stimulus funding during the pandemic has supported the state budget. The American Rescue Plan Act provided $2.7 billion to the state in 2021. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act sent $1.25 billion to Montana and “CARES Act II” provided another $754 million in 2020.

“They did the best they were allowed to do to use it in existing programs where they could or use it … in one-time-only expenditure. So, and I don’t think there’ll be a big, big hit when the federal money finally runs out,” he said.

Montana received $14 billion total in federal funding in the past 18 months, according to Story. A lot of that has been driving the economy, along with a pickup in the tourism industry.

Whether the huge growth in revenue is something that will stay with us or it’s a bubble in the system, he said legislators are reluctant to use it to backfill local government revenue losses from property tax reductions.

All the federal money hasn’t been allocated or spent in Montana, Story said. A lot of it goes into infrastructure projects that will take several years to build, keeping the money churning in the system.

“Everyone’s in the same boat,” Story said. “There’s X amount of construction workers and equipment and supplies out there and every state is scrambling for them.”

A lot of the infrastructure projects funded with stimulus money will have trouble meeting the 2026 deadline. Congress may have to extend the deadline just to get projects that have been on the drawing board completed, he said.

Montana is improving in the tax rankings when compared to other states.

The Tax Foundation announced its 2022 tax study this week and Montana was in the top ten. Overall Montana ranks fifth, with Wyoming in first place, South Dakota in second, Alaska third, and Florida fourth.

The Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index enables business leaders, government policymakers, and taxpayers to gauge how their states’ tax systems compare. The Index is designed to show how well states structure their tax systems and provides a road map for improvement.

In the specific components Montana ranked 22nd in Corporate Tax Rank; 24th in Individual Income Tax Income; 3rd in Sales Tax Rank and 29th in unemployment tax.

Montana has an income tax rate of 6.75 percent while five states have no income taxes and three have only selective income taxes. Collection per capita of state and local individual income in Montana is $1119 which ranks it 24th. The state and local tax burden is 8.7 percent and ranks 38th.

Montana’s top corporate income tax rate is 6.75 percent. While the state has no sales tax there are specific sales taxes. Montana’s gas tax 32.75 cents ranking it 22nd. Cigarette tax rate is $1.70, ranking 23rd.

Montana’s property taxes is .76 percent ranking it 32nd. Per capita the state collects $1567 ranking it 22nd.

The absence of a major tax is a common factor among many of the top 10 states. Property taxes and unemployment insurance taxes are levied in every state, but there are several states that do without one or more of the major taxes: the corporate income tax, the individual income tax, or the sales tax. Nevada, South Dakota, and Wyoming have no corporate or individual income tax (though Nevada imposes gross receipts taxes); Alaska has no individual income or state-level sales tax; Florida and Tennessee have no individual income tax; and New Hampshire and Montana have no sales tax.

Rounding out the top ten states is New Hampshire Nevada, Tennessee, Indiana and Utah.

Among the ten lowest ranked states New Jersey is the worst and then New York followed by California, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Arkansas, Vermont, Louisiana, and then Hawaii at 41st.

Neighboring states, Idaho ranked 17 and North Dakota, 19.

The states in the bottom 10 tend to have a number of afflictions in common: complex, nonneutral taxes with comparatively high rates. New Jersey, for example, is hampered by some of the highest property tax burdens in the country, has the highest corporate income taxes and among the highest individual income taxes in the country, has a particularly aggressive treatment of international income, levies an inheritance tax, and maintains some of the nation’s worst-structured individual income taxes.

Americans were on the move in 2021, and they chose low-tax states over high-tax ones, according to the Tax Foundation. Montana was among the top in-migration states with an increase of 1.8 percent. Idaho increased 3.4 percent, while New York lost by -1.8 percent and California lost .8 percent.

The Montana Contractors Association announced that Andy Mathison has been elected as its board president for 2022.

Mathison is owner and president of Casino Creek Concrete in Lewistown. He joined the company in 2000, and has been the owner since 2004. Mathison holds a Civil Engineering degree from Montana State University, Bozeman, and is certified as an ACI GRADE 1 Concrete Testing Tech and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan Administrator. Casino Creek was recently recognized with a Construction Excellence Award in the concrete category last month at the MCA Winter Convention. The Lewistown company has received eight such awards.

Mathison has been a board member for the MCA since 2017, and he represents the Association’s concrete division. He replaces Marty Schuma of Dick Anderson Construction (Helena), as president.

The MCA membership also elected Bill Langlas of Langlas & Associates (Bozeman/Billings) as Vice President, and Cale Fisher of Riverside Contracting (Missoula) as Treasurer. The 2022 MCA board is comprised of the following members: Guy Slaybaugh, Century Companies (Lewistown); Keith Johnston, Mountain West Holding Co. (Butte); Hal Fuglevand, Knife River (Billings); Ryan Dunn, Martel Construction (Bigfork); Tyler Smith, Lakeside Excavation (Havre); Tyler McIntyre, PayneWest Insurance (Missoula); Michelle Cohens, Sletten Construction (Great Falls), and Ken Murphy, TMC, Inc. (Belgrade).

The MCA is a chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, with 265 members. For more information contact David Smith, Executive Director 406-442-4162.

The Montana Contractors Association, a chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), is a trade organization representing commercial, industrial and public works construction firms. Our Mission is simple: Working together, we advocate for quality contractors, people, and projects by providing value and opportunity for our members. Learn more at

Dear Editor,

In the February 22, 2022, Commissioner meeting, Commissioner Pitman raised a stack of papers and reports which he claimed showed they had been working on MetraPark management since 2010 contradicting Commissioner Jones and his previous narrative that the private vs. county management discussion started with the November 1, 2021, meeting.  Which is correct?

Commissioners Pitman and Commissioner Jones also discussed “MetraPark Questions Regarding MetraPark Management.” They addressed 16 questions, out of 27, submitted by Commissioner Ostlund. Commissioner Pitman and Commissioner Jones said these questions had already been answered and most of them would be addressed as part of negotiations during contract talks. Commissioner Ostlund pushed the idea of Commissioners setting goals and objectives before the bidding process and received no support. Commission Pitman and Commission Jones stated the recent Venue Solution Group (VSG) report said MetraPark needed a Policy and Procedures Handbook which would contain goals and objectives. Commissioner Pitman and Commissioner Jones said Oak View Group (OVG) a bidder, will design the Policy and Procedures with stated goals and objectives. So, goals and objectives are to be set by a third party vs. Commissioners?

Commissioner Pitman went further and defended the existing ‘Booking Arrangement’ with OVG even though it hurts taxpayers by allowing OVG to receive $50,000 based on Metra’s overall financial performance even if they provide no services. Commissioner Pitman stated it is a “good contract”.

Responding to public pressure, all three Commissioners voted ‘aye’ in discussion to hiring VSG to facilitate an agreement with any potential privatization bid. Commissioners also passed a motion to ‘Request for Qualifications & Information for MetraPark Campus Management Services’ (rebid for privatize management services).

Kim Rolfsen

1633 Main Street

Billings MT 59105

Last week, temperatures across Montana ranged from -10 to -36 degrees, with the coldest spot south of the Little Belt Mountains in Meagher County.

Montanans relied on NorthWestern Energy to keep their homes and businesses operating safely. NorthWestern Energy’s Montana customers’ demand for energy, both gas and electric, was at an all-time peak. according to NorthWestern Energy Vice President Transmission Mike Cashell, however, there was almost no wind which helped created a shortage.  To fill the gap, the company went out into the market to purchase energy, but at such times prices increase dramatically because of the increased demand. Market prices on Wednesday were ranging from $50 to $100 per megawatt, compared with about $35 to $40 per megawatt Tuesday, Feb. 22. 

The demand for U.S. workers has led some manufacturers, technology firms and other employers to ditch the annual raise and switch to more frequent pay reviews as they compete for talent and keep pace with rising wages.

CoorsTek Inc., a maker of industrial ceramics, last year started doing quarterly pay reviews, primarily to ensure it could hire and retain workers for critical and hard-to-fill manufacturing roles such as production operators and maintenance mechanics. The Golden, Colo.-based company hired around 1,300 people in the U.S. last year, and bringing on new people often meant paying above its usual ranges.

“When the market is evolving in real-time and there really isn’t a leading indicator other than what you’re seeing to compete and hire, you quickly have to adjust,” said Irma Lockridge, the chief people officer at the 6,000-person company.

U.S. companies and small businesses are competing for employees in a historically tight labor market. Employers added 6.7 million jobs last year, yet U.S. job openings and worker turnover are hovering near their highest levels on record. Those trends are spurring wage growth. Wages climbed 5.7 percent in January from a year earlier, government data show, nearly double the average gain before the government imposed COVID restraints on the economy.

Full off-cycle salary reviews remain relatively rare, surveys show, and executives say companies can turn to other options, such as using one-time bonuses, expanding benefits or adding vacation days, to help retain workers without boosting wages.

Some executives have announced across-the-board pay increases during routine all-hands sessions, surprising workers.

Last week, two representatives of the real estate business approached Yellowstone County Commissioners about whether the county has vacant land that might be dedicated to addressing the affordable housing situation in Yellowstone County.

With most subdivision developments, state law requires that developers donate a portion of the project to the public for potential open space or park development. Most often those parcels are not developed and simply sit as vacant land. Two of Billings’ veteran real estate brokers, Tom Llewelyn and Bob Leach, are hoping that some of those dedicated parcels might be made available to become the basis of a community land trust (CLT).

Following a series of forums in which the Billings real estate industry scrutinized the housing crisis the community faces, CLTs emerged as a possible solution. “It’s one of the best tools we have,” said Llewelyn.

If we don’t get housing where people can afford it, we aren’t going to bring the 40,000 new workers to replace retiring babyboomers or workers at new businesses in the TEDD or hospital workers, said Llewelyn. A couple weeks ago Leach announced that in order to meet its housing needs, Billings and the surrounding area must build about 2000 living units (single family houses, condos, duplexes, etc.) a year.

Since the 1960s, CLT’s are increasingly being used to address housing affordability issues that plague many communities across the country.   They are currently operating in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

A CLT is the establishment of a private non-profit that holds land and preserves land affordability. While there are several examples of such trusts in the state there are none in Billings. There are CLTs in Missoula, Kalispell, Red Lodge, Bozeman and Big Sky, etc. Across the state there are about 200 CLT homes.

Llewelyn suggested that there may be some county-owned property that could be donated to a land trust  — “maybe in Shepherd or Huntley.” The city has a few similar parcels and so does Laurel, said Llewelyn, adding that they have also had discussions with the Department of Natural Resources (DNRC) about land in the area under that agency’s authority.  One unused DNRC property is near Castle Rock School. “It’s a good piece of land,” said Llewelyn, but it is sandstone and structures would have to be built on piers.

Any DNRC project and land donation would have to be approved by the Montana Land Board.

Commissioners had questions about how large a parcel must be and what a lease would look like. They pointed out that typically the land donated to the county by developers is not very conducive to development, which is why they chose to donate those parcels.

Llewelyn said that a parcel could be useable even if it would accommodate only five or six homes – “it doesn’t have to be 160 acres.” The lease would likely be able to be structured to meet whatever the county would like. Leases typically run for 60 or 70 years and some 99 years.

During one of the housing forums, it was explained that CLTs have proven to be a creative solution to keeping prices down for low to moderate income home buyers. It is an alternative to renting that allows the owners within a CLT to build equity toward independent home ownership and to be able to qualify for a loan.

In a CLT the house or buildings on a property are owned and traded separately from the land. The trust owns the land with the homeowner entering into a long-term land lease, varying from 75 to 99 years. Homeowners usually pay a monthly fee for amenities, a fee which is normally around $40 a month.

The ground lease makes sure the home is well maintained and preserves the community assets.

The homeowners own the home and earn limited equity. The arrangement reduces the purchase price of a home. Not having to pay for a lot that might cost between $75,000 to $100,000, quite obviously reduces the cost. The CLT serves well in many other capacities. It gives owners an opportunity to become educated about home ownership and learning about stewardship, while growing their wealth.

The owner can only sell to someone else whose income qualifies them to be able to purchase within the CLT – an income which is about 80 percent of the median income – about $61,000 in the Billings area. The CLT retains the right of first refusal in the sale, in order to buy back the property in case of default.

The legitimacy of property rights within a CLT have been verified through the courts and are accepted as sound investments by lenders. In fact, depending on how it is set up a CLT could reduce risk to a lender, making it all the more attractive as an investment.

The CLTs can be developed and established in numerous ways, with initial investment being acquired through the contribution of public land, donations from private organizations, grants, etc. They are administered by a stand-alone organization whose goal is to maintain the financial stability of the trust.

Plans are progressing for a proposed land trust in Lockwood that is envisioned to develop a downtown area for Lockwood and help address a critical shortage of affordable housing.

Three years ago a group of property owners in Lockwood announced a plan to develop a land trust to help develop a town center for Lockwood. The idea was inspired with the issuance of a plan for land-use development  in Lockwood from municipal  planners who had been overseeing a growth study for Lockwood.

Once Conrad and Teresa Stroebe realized that they owned property in the middle of what was being identified as Lockwood’s business center, they started thinking about how to best develop for a downtown – or what the Stroebe’s call an “uptown” since the area is actually at a higher elevation than much of Lockwood. They talked to other property owners in the area. What emerged was the first serious discussion about land trusts which the Stroebes have remained focused upon and hope that the other property owners will be able to become part of it. 

The fundamental purpose of the land trust is to help keep housing and development affordable for the people of Lockwood. “We want to build a village,” say the Stroebes.

Stroebe said that he believes they will have a master plan developed in the next 90 to 120 days. They will then start building the infrastructure so builders can start building on what is anticipated to be a minimum of 40 acres and hopefully closer to 170 acres, along the upper end of Johnson Lane as it joins Ford Road.

“We are not looking for investors but builders,” said Conrad. The proposed project does not have to be done all at once. It can be developed as the market needs.

Land trusts are not for everyone, explain the Stroebes. If you have to own “the dirt” you probably won’t  be interested in the land trust. “I’m one of those people,” said Teresa, but she sees the potential a land trust holds to address what is fast becoming a crisis of affordable housing. It has become a critical need for the whole county. The Stroebes also point to the need in Lockwood for many more retail stores.

Since the Stroebes first initiated their idea about three years ago, the concept of land trusts have gained more interest and have already been developed in some Montana communities such as Bozeman, Missoula, and Red Lodge. They are actually being used across the country to help deal with affordability issues. But actually the concept of land trusts is not all that new. A century ago people were utilizing the concept in building cabins on publically-owned forest service land with 99-year leases.

A more recent and perfect example for Lockwood, points out Conrad, is the development of the St. Vincent Clinic on the Lockwood School Campus.  While the school district retains ownership of the property, a developer leased the property , built the building, and is now leasing it to St. Vincent Health Care on a 30 year lease, which is renewable on into the future. The developer owns the building, which he can, with the school district’s permission, lease or sell to someone else. In their agreement with the developer, at the end of the ground lease with the school the building becomes the property of the school district.

That is exactly how a land trust can work.

Land trusts are increasingly being used across the country to meet a variety of community needs. Most commonly they are used in meeting residential needs, but they are equally adaptable to serving commercial and retail developments. What the Lockwood property owners are planning is essentially a “planned unit development”, which is a holistic concept  within which a general layout is designed, identifying structure types, streets, utilities, landscaping and other features.

The Stroebes envision a campus kind of development. They have already purchased 700 trees that will be planted this spring on the rolling Lockwood hills, so as the community grows so will the trees.

Stroebe pointed to the development of Shiloh Commons at Central Avenue and Shiloh Road, in west Billings, as an example of a planned unit development, except it isn’t as large, and it is a for-profit project.

As a non-profit organization, Lockwood’s Town Center would probably lease property, long term – such as 99 year leases – with all revenues generated reinvested in the maintenance and continued infrastructure development of the site. Administration of the development would be flexible enough to meet market demands and to be able to adapt as changes occur in the future.

The trust pays for taxes on the land and the home or shop owner pays the taxes on the building.

“It is not to make money but to save money for the community,” said Conrad Stroebe. Teresa noted that it will just be another option for people. They are not really intending to compete with more traditional developers, but they do want to create opportunities by keeping the ever escalating cost of land under control – most especially for low and middle income home owners.

A community land trust (CLT) model is a form of permanently affordable housing in which a community-controlled organization retains ownership of the land and sells or rents the housing on that land to lower income households in exchange for purchasing homes at below-market prices. Owners agree to resale price restriction  that keep homes permanent affordable to subsequent households with similar income levels. Meanwhile, the sellers are still able to build some equity.

Stroebe explained that what that means is that rather than having to spend $75,000 to $100,000 for a lot the builder or home owner just signs a lease. That alone can bring down the cost of a new home by 43 percent.

CLT provides not only the opportunity to get into affordable housing and to build equity, but to also learn about the responsibilities of property ownership.

If they are structured right, lenders are very willing to lend on the properties, because they have demonstrated to have far less risks associated with the property.