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By Andi Bourne

Making Seeley Lake a More Vibrant Community


SEELEY LAKE – As a result of the Resource Team Assessment conducted last fall by Montana Economic Developers Association (MEDA), the Seeley Lake Vibrancy Committee has formed and is working towards addressing the community priorities identified in the assessment.

More than a dozen community members have split the work between six initiatives to explore ideas on how to improve the community: Healthy Community; Website; Chamber Reboot; Montana Main Street; Tourism Business Improvement District and Voting Rights.

Committee organizer Lee Boman said the name “Seeley Lake Vibrancy Committee” captures what the group is trying to do, make Seeley Lake more vibrant.

“Someone called our group the Vibrancy Committee and it stuck,” wrote Boman in an email. “It is just simply what we plan to do and the name just felt obvious to all.”

The committee met Feb. 15 with each of the team leads presenting what they are doing, where they are headed and took questions and suggestions from the rest of the group.

Healthy Communities: The objective is to develop and promote strategies that help people make healthy choices where they live, learn, work and play. Boman said the group hopes to focus on the pre-teen and teen age groups.

Website: The objective is to update the Visit Montana website as it relates to Seeley Lake and develop a website specific to Seeley Lake.

The team does not feel that the current Seeley Lake Chamber of Commerce website is the best representation for Seeley Lake since it is not kept up-to-date and is not all-inclusive. They proposed creating a separate website that helps drive tourism and business by showcasing all of the local events, meetings and opportunities to get involved. This would include everything offered in Seeley Lake and would not exclude groups or organizations because they cannot pay. How this would be funded is still under discussion.

Committee members suggested sharing links to existing websites and businesses that already provide information. An example of this was the Seeley Swan Pathfinder Upcoming Events Calendar and Public Meetings since it is currently maintained.

Committee member Jessica Kimmel presented a demo website that she created for the chamber but could be used for the Seeley Lake site. The website included information about businesses, non-profits, the schools, Seeley Lake Top 10 Things to Do and an events calendar.

The committee will continue to explore options and outline specifics about the Seeley Lake website and will continue to work through revisions and updates to the Visit Montana website. The committee also identified the opportunity to educate local non-profits and businesses about the advantages of advertising events and getting their information all in one place.

Chamber Reboot: The objective to develop an entity that successfully promotes events and attractions in Seeley Lake.

Cheryl Lewis said the team is on the same page as the website team, exploring ideas on how to be more inclusive to businesses and non-profits. They are also considering changing the name of the chamber to give it a new identity in the community.

Another focus is planning for the Fourth of July, the biggest day in Seeley Lake. They will be holding a community-planning meeting April 4 at 5:30 p.m. at the Filling Station. Everyone from the community is invited to bring their ideas and there will be many opportunities to get involved.

Montana Main Street Program (MMSP): The objective of the Montana Main Street Program is dedicated to bettering the economic, historic and cultural vitality of Montana downtowns through community development, revitalization and historic preservation.

The team visited with the MMSP representative and talked about the current marketing, branding and the wayfinding efforts for Seeley Lake. While the representative was encouraged with what was already being done, he recommended developing a master plan and said he would be happy to meet with the group later this spring.

The team does not anticipate applying for the program this year. However, they are trying to get all the information together so they can apply for future funding efforts that they think would be beneficial to Seeley Lake.

Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID): The objective is to successfully promote attractions and events in the area.

Within the boundaries delineated for the TBID, there is a petition process and there must be 60 percent of the accommodation owners that support the TBID. If there is the support, the county commissioners create the TBID by resolution for 10 years.

A board, made up of 60 percent accommodation owners, locally controls the money and decides how it will be spent based on applications it receives from the community. In addition to bringing events to the community that last more than one day and promoting tourism opportunities in Seeley Lake, it could also be used for infrastructure improvements, highway beautification, billboards or event expenses that help promote keeping people in the community overnight.

Details of district boundaries, the amount of the flat fee to be charged per bed, what accommodation owners can opt-out of the district and what accommodations qualify for the TBID are still in the works.

The team is putting together an information packet about the TBID and how the money will be used. They will provide the packet and set up meetings with accommodation owners to help answer their questions and get their feedback and ideas.

Voting Rights: The objective is to secure voting rights for all registered voters on matters that impact quality of life or property values.

Mike Lindemer and Lee Boman met with House District 92 Mike Hopkins, Senator Sue Malek and Mona F. Jamison about voting rights, sewer system and a resort tax. The representatives were disappointed in the small percentage of voters that were allowed to vote on the sewer bond issue. Malek and Hopkins expressed their support for a sewer system and willingness to assist going forward.

Boman and Lindemer learned there is flexibility with the resort tax. It can be turned on during the summer and off during the winter months and it may be possible to exclude Seeley Lake residents from having to pay the tax.

Malek and Jamison recommended educating the community about the benefits of the resort tax and how it can help pay for the sewer. They also said to work with the county commissioners to expand the resort district boundaries to include all registered voters, 1,510 voters, in the voting precinct.

Boman feels that implementing a resort tax is the crux of everything. The team will be focusing on how they will educate and inform the community providing answers to their questions and help overcome the perceptions from the past.

While not currently one of the initiatives, the Vibrancy Committee discussed the idea of incorporation since it was brought up during the assessment. Many of the committee members agreed that exploring incorporation was valuable for Seeley Lake. One member felt that the rest of the initiatives the committee is working on are a moot point until Seeley Lake is incorporated because without it programs lack consistency and cohesiveness. The committee decided they would like to focus on these six initiatives and will revisit the discussion next year.

The next meeting for the Vibrancy Committee is March 15 at 10:30 a.m. at the Seeley Lake Historical Museum and Visitors Center. Anyone interested in more information or getting involved is encouraged to contact Anne Beach at the Seeley Lake Community Foundation, 677-3506.


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