FORT BENTON — Plans for a housing development in Fort Benton have garnered some attention from residents in the area. Some have expressed a need for more housing options, which is why Shay and Katie Richter say the idea of a new development makes perfect sense.
"Growing up here, I always knew that Fort Benton was a special place," Katie said. "When we came back, it became even more true. The feel and community just makes it a very special place. We do have a small house, which we have now outgrown. Now, we are looking somewhere where we can potentially build. There have been lots that have come and gone, but when this particular piece of property came up for sale, we thought this might be the perfect place to have a house. We really plan on cleaning it up, and at the very least have a place where people can come to build."
The 23-acre property is located on Highway 386 near the underpass entering town. The proposed development, referred to as 'Little Sage Development' would offer 24 lots just under an acre each, offering the right amount of space between neighbors. The homes will be single-family and stick-built. They are expected to be built gradually as lots fill.
Shay says it's a work in progress, but despite some obstacles, they have received a ton of support.
"We've got a great team around us," Shay said. "The city planning board along with the county planning board voted unanimously to recommend the City Council to annex us in ... So far, everyone around us in the city and the local government has been all for it. There is just such a need for housing around this area. We've got people that are trying to move back, but can't. We've also got nurses and teachers that drive in from Great Falls. There are locals on the farm that are getting a little bit older and just want to move into town and get a little space."
The property sits outside of city limits, and he project is in the early stages, as engineers are evaluating sewer needs and water flow. Shay says he aims for that process to be complete by the summer or autumn season, so that their plans meet the necessary requirements.
"We've also got a couple meetings with the City Trails Committee, hopefully dedicating some of our ground to them to use as a walking trail in order to loop in the River's Edge Walking Trail in Fort Benton and give a full loop for some of the walkers and people that want to explore the town."
While numbers have been steady, Fort Benton has seen a population decline over the last decade. The Richters say they want Fort Benton to continue to thrive, unlike other rural towns where people have fled and never returned home.
Katie emphasized that the purpose of this development is not to reel in any "outsiders," but rather an opportunity for locals and area residents to find a home that better fits their needs and give Fort Benton alumni the opportunity to return to their roots.
Katie said, "I think the biggest misconception is that we're a big developer from somewhere out of state, and I think those people probably have watched too much 'Yellowstone.' We're just a couple local farm kids. Our great-great grandparents came here during the homesteaders at looking for a better life, and so that's kind of what we're looking for and willing to offer other people as well."
For any questions about the housing development, you can contact Shay Richter at 406-399-1201.
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