Proposed development project near Jefferson County Lake getting mixed reactions - East Idaho News

Proposed development project near Jefferson County Lake getting mixed reactions

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RIGBY – A large crowd at a city of Rigby Planning and Zoning meeting Thursday night forced city officials to reschedule in a larger venue.

The meeting is about two annexation and zone designation projects, one of which is for a proposed development on Rigby Lake Drive on property north of the old Squealer’s Fun Park. The meeting agenda indicates the project will include more than 39 acres of commercial development, along with 12 acres of condos or apartments and 5.9 acres of duplex housing.

Devin Dial is one of the developers connected with the project. He tells the property’s close proximity to U.S. Highway 20 and Jefferson County Lake makes it an ideal spot to provide something nice that will attract people to spend time in the burgeoning community.

“Growing up in Rigby, I was always taught that when you want something, you drive to Idaho Falls but Idaho Falls is so congested now,” Dial says. “There are so many people in Rigby now … and there are millions of people who drive past on their way to Yellowstone and we want to give them a reason to stop in Rigby.”

The housing project aims to accommodate the influx of people to the community amid soaring home prices.

There’s no way to know who the commercial tenants will be until the space is built but Dial says the idea is to attract restaurants and retailers.

During our conversation, Dial referenced Snake River Landing in Idaho Falls to describe the level of quality and value he wants to bring to his hometown.

“Snake River Landing has its own vibe with nice restaurants, nice apartments, nice townhomes and I’m not (trying to replicate that). But that gives you an idea (of the quality I want). I’m talking nice development,” he says. “Like everybody else, I’m sick of seeing just steel buildings going up. We just need some good retail and honestly a good restaurant.”

The addition of a family restaurant has been the most requested amenity for the city in recent years and many people have expressed desires for more retail since the closure of King’s and Abbott’s several years ago.

But many of the people who showed up at the meeting Thursday night expressed opposition to the project.

Barbara Mugleston, a lifelong Rigby resident and realtor at Century 21 High Desert in Idaho Falls, is in favor of growth but says it needs to be managed in the correct manner. She cites infrastructure issues as her primary concern for this project.

“You drive down that road (Rigby Lake Drive) — that road is narrow. There are two bridges there. From May to September, you have an excessive amount of traffic for people going to the lake. It gets backed up a quarter of a mile or more,” Mugleston says.

annexation and rezone map
Mugleston posted this map in a comment thread on a Rigby Facebook group Friday afternoon. | Barbara Mugleston

Costco in Idaho Falls takes up 17 acres, Mugleston says, and she wonders whether this section of Rigby on a tiny intersection can handle 39 acres of commercial development, not to mention housing.

“That road is the main corridor to Highway 20 so we need to be proactive on this to figure out what can work. They’ve got to bring the septic out, the sewer system out. Who’s going to pay for that?” says Mugleston.

Sidewalks, curb and gutter, whether or not to install turning lanes or widen the road are other issues that Mugleston says need to be addressed. She would like to see what the specific plan is before development begins.

With a city water and sewer upgrade already underway, Dial says Rigby is in a prime position to support this type of growth and he plans to connect this project to city services.

“We’re trying to grow Rigby the right way,” he says. “If gas hits $6 a gallon, we don’t always want to drive to Idaho Falls for everything. We’ve got millions of people driving past Rigby. Let’s capture a little bit of money.”

The property, which is currently zoned for low density residential development, is on county land and will need to be annexed into the city before the project can happen. Mugleston says the owner knowingly sold it even though it was zoned for the county.

Dial anticipates the project taking between three and five years to complete.

Planning and Zoning is hoping to hold another annexation meeting at Rigby High School on April 14 at 6 p.m.