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Idaho Falls seeks to increase area of city impact by just 2 square miles

Idaho Falls favors growth by infill more than sprawl. The 45-acre Taylor Crossing near downtown was undeveloped land that now has a variety of office, retail and two hotels with future residential possible. Photo courtesy of city of Idaho Falls.

Idaho Falls favors growth by infill over sprawl. The 45-acre Taylor Crossing near downtown was undeveloped land that now has office and retail buildings and hotels.  Photo courtesy of the city of Idaho Falls.

A whole different school of thought applies to growth in Idaho Falls than in the sprawling Treasure Valley.

This is spelled out in the city of Idaho Falls’ first request since 2001 to increase its area of city impact. Idaho Falls proposes adding less than 2 square miles to its existing 36.45-square-mile area of city impact. The area of impact encircles the 23.97 square miles within the city limits. Kuna earlier this year boosted its impact area from 7.5 square miles to 78 square miles.

The area of city impact is land surrounding the established city limits that a city anticipates providing services to in the next 20-plus years. Areas of city impact are state-mandated agreements between cities and counties to enable cities to annex unincorporated land.

Areas of city impact in the Treasure Valley extend quite a bit beyond the city limits. The Meridian and Nampa impact areas generally extend about 2 miles out to the Ada/Canyon county line. In Idaho Falls, portions of the city limits touch the impact line on all four sides and the proposed expansions add strips less than a quarter mile wide to the south and west edges.

The largest proposed addition in Idaho Falls is 640 acres just outside the city’s northeast corner served by Yellowstone Highway and Iona Road.

“There have been a number of discussions with developers about building an industrial park here,” said Brad Cramer, the Idaho Falls community development director.

The proposal would increase the area of city impact to 38.32 square miles.

Overall, though, Idaho Falls seeks growth through infill rather than outward sprawl. Cramer noted the city and surrounding unincorporated areas have 7,100 acres of undeveloped lands.

“We already have 28 years’ worth of undeveloped land within our area of impact,” Cramer said. “We try to encourage growth close to the city’s core.”

The existing signature infill projects in Idaho Falls are the adjoining Taylor Crossing and Snake River Landing mixed-use developments, which include Class A office buildings, commercial space, two hotels, a planned events center and housing on a converted former gravel pit. Taylor Crossing and Snake River Landing are just across the river and south of the historic downtown.

The  Planning and Zoning commissions of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County will have a joint public hearing August 16 to consider the renegotiated boundary of the area of city impact. The two commissions have discussed adjusting the city impact lines since March 2016. Cramer anticipates final approval of new boundaries by the end of the year.

“As we’ve met together every month over the course of this project, I think both sides have come away with a much better understanding of each side’s goals, concerns, and processes,” Cramer said. “The relationship is definitely stronger than when we first started.”

Even though the area of city impact is all about lines on a map, Cramer said this first impact area negotiating session in 16 years was more important for fostering relations between the city and county than the impact lines.

“As for this go-around, the lines don’t matter much,” Cramer said.

About Teya Vitu

Teya Vitu is an Idaho Business Review reporter, covering commercial real estate, construction, transportation and whatever else may intrigue him in the moment. Join me on Twitter at @IBR_TeyaVitu.