GALLATIN GATEWAY - A proposed subdivision with $2 million homes and a golf course has created a line between people who see the project as an economic stimulus and those fearing it will damage their way of life.

On Tuesday the Gallatin County Planning Board will consider the Winchester Day Ranch project proposed for land west of Gallatin Gateway. The meeting will take place four days after more than 60 residents met with developers for an informal look at the project.

"We're not here to change your way of life," said Craig Bryant of Winchester Development. "We're hoping to add to it."

A leading concern of critics is that the project would set a precedent easing the way for more subdivisions in the area.

The proposal calls for 114 houses, 30 condominiums, an equestrian center, an 18-hole golf course and a clubhouse on 2,820 acres. The plan also includes more than 2,000 acres of open space and a 320-acre waterfowl sanctuary.

Winchester Development has completed 22 exclusive golf developments in the United States, including the Stock Farm in Hamilton. The average price of homes at Winchester Day Ranch would be $2 million to $2.5 million, and most of the buyers likely would have residences elsewhere, as well.

That means the project would have far less impact on Gallatin Gateway than opponents predict, said planner Mike Potter, who works for Bryant.

"These folks will tiptoe in and out of here," Potter said. "They want to enjoy this pretty part of Montana."

He also said buyers would invest locally, donating money to community projects. Bryant has pledged thousands of dollars for the Gallatin Gateway school, fire department and several community projects.

A group called Concerned Residents Opposing Wayward Development, or CROWD, says Winchester Development's plan would bring a lot of traffic, harm wildlife habitat and consume too much water.

The developers disagree.

Wetlands specialist Lynn Bacon said the Day Ranch would no longer use 13 acres of land previously irrigated and, consequently, more water would enter the Gallatin River. The project would use only one-third of the water it legally could, Bacon said.

The ranch has two sections, one on the hills west of Gallatin Gateway, and another on the riverbottom. Water for the golf course would be pumped from the lower section.

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