Ward 3 includes the Billings midtown area. As the edges of Billings develop, businesses are moving further out to build on less expensive farm land. New buildings have current infrastructure and a modern look. But the residents of Billings pay more for stretched police and fire services and the increased costs of more roads, water and sewer.
The highest costs of outward growth are the empty buildings and land in the downtown and more recently the midtown areas. For residents of Billings, this means longer drives to shopping areas, increased traffic, and more frequent refills of the gas tank.
The city has adopted an infill policy for properties already in the city limits to be reused. The policy, if it were followed, would help to find uses for the existing buildings, vacant land, and bring the structures up to modern standards. Midtown has many underutilized or empty properties. If left unoccupied, the necessary repairs and maintenance is not done. Without revenue and care from a tenant, properties are neglected and fall into disrepair.
As the requests for annexations continue to fill the council’s agenda, we should question if expansion is in the long term interests of Billings. The best use of public money is maintaining and reusing what has already been paid for, our existing neighborhoods. The current infill policy would accomplish this goal, if implemented.
The current council has allowed sprawl. The council has not provided the Planning Division with the resources to implement the infill policy. As the city grows on the edges, the center of Billings, including the midtown area, will continue to decline in prosperity and resources. Decreasing occupation and revenues will continue to take its toll.
Growth on the edges must be brought into balance with maintaining the existing commercial and residential neighborhoods of Billings. As a representative of Ward 3 on the Billings City Council I will fight for economic growth and healthy neighborhoods in midtown.