The public is being asked to comment on a land exchange that will bring Jefferson County one step closer to realizing its vision for the former Montana Development Center property.
The exchange involves the nearly 32 acre MDC campus in Boulder and another 154 acres, in two parcels, located about a mile south of the city and east of Highway 69.
Both properties are owned by the state, but the MDC campus is considered to be in-trust property, while the 154 acres are non-trust land.
Land that is considered in-trust with the state benefits schools, universities and more by generating revenue, while non-trust land is acreage administered by other state agencies, such as the Department of Corrections, according to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation website.
Jefferson County Commissioners Chairman Leonard Wortman said the designation change will allow the county to acquire the MDC campus property without having to pay market value. Transferring the designation allows the acquisition to move forward, he said, adding that he did not currently know the market value of the property.
Efforts to reach the DNRC for that information were unsuccessful by press time.
For the land swap to occur, the two properties would need to have a similar value, said Tom Harrington, project coordinator for the Jefferson Local Development Corporation.
Wortman said the land transfer is the first step, to be followed by the state transferring the buildings to the county.
There are three state agencies involved in the transfer — the Department of Corrections, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The DOC is involved in the exchange because it manages the 154 acres being considered as part of the deal. The DNRC is the agency tasked with overseeing state trust lands and the DPHHS has oversight of the former MDC campus.
The Montana Development Center closed in late 2018 and had once employed 250 people. Since its closure, the county has looked into different ways to utilize the property, which includes numerous buildings.
One of the administration buildings dates back to the 1890s and would likely require a good deal of asbestos and lead paint mitigation, and that could run upwards of $700,000, said Harrington, referencing the dollar amount on other “brownfield’ projects he has been involved with.
As for what the buildings can ultimately be used for, Jefferson County is working with the Veterans Administration to possibly create a veteran education and support facility, as well as a pain management center on the property, said Wortman.
Other plans may include a continuing education center for young adults, a local product manufacturing site, commercial site development and activities associated with VA therapeutics, such as an equine facility.
Harrington was careful to stress that for this overall vision to be finalized, it requires the actions of many players — at the state and local level — and it can be slowed or derailed at any point.
The DNRC will hold a Zoom virtual meeting on Wednesday, June 10, 6 p.m. to discuss the proposed land exchange.
All meeting materials are available on the DNRC website at http://dnrc.mt.gov/public-interest/public-notices.
To participate, email HCrum@mt.gov with your name and a request to be sent a calendar invite which will include instructions for joining and participating in the call. This request must be received by 5 p.m. on June 9. Include “Boulder Land Exchange” in the subject line of any correspondence. Written comments must be submitted by the end of business on June 30 to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Attn: Heidi Crum, Helena Unit Manager MT DNRC Helena Unit 8001 North Montana Ave Helena MT, 59602 or to HCrum@mt.gov