Rigby neighborhood upset by property annexation recommendation
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RIGBY – A 57-acre piece of property near Jefferson County Lake in Rigby is at the center of a contentious dispute about annexation and zoning and the heat may have just turned up a notch.
Accelerated Capital and Southgate Properties recently purchased the property north of the old Squealer’s Fun Park. The companies are planning to build 38.8 acres of residential housing along 460 North and another 18.47 acres of commercial development.
The property sits on county land and the company wants to annex it into the city so they can use city sewer and water services for the development, rather than dig its own well and septic system. There are higher standards of quality at the city level than in the county, according to Public Works Director Mitch Bradley. Devin Dial, one of the developers connected with the project, tells EastIdahoNews.com that anything within 300 feet of city property is required to be annexed into the city anyway.
During a planning and zoning meeting Thursday night, the board recommended approval of the annexation, despite opposition from about 100 people in attendance. The city council will have the final say on the matter, which will happen at a later date.
The decision comes after months of debate between the developers and homeowners in the surrounding community. Dial says they’ve drastically reduced the 39 acres of commercial development they were originally proposing after “getting hammered” with opposition from residents.
Public comments from Thursday night’s meeting were focused on these changes, specifically the designation of R1 zoning on the property, which is a designation for single-family housing units. Dial is proposing 8.88 acres of R1 housing at this location and residents are concerned about it. Multiple reasons were cited by residents of the surrounding neighborhood but the primary concern is the influx of people and the increase in traffic that will result.
“I’ve lived recently in Texas and I grew up in California. My community started small and became not small. What’s being proposed here is exactly what I saw there. It’s painful to watch something as beautiful as Rigby be turned into something that’s a development nightmare,” one homeowner said at the meeting.
The homeowners who spoke at the meeting feel Dial’s proposal isn’t well thought out and doesn’t adequately address parking and infrastructure issues with roads and city services. Bradley pointed out that the city has no control over the roads because it’s under the county’s jurisdiction.
Dial’s plan also includes R2 and R3 housing, which is a zone designation for townhome duplexes and apartments respectively. Rigby Realtor Brent Butikofer pointed out that the property has been an R1 zone for decades and that designation should remain in place going forward.
Some homeowners also expressed concern about a potential decrease in home values and an increase in property taxes the development will create.
“If you would’ve sat down and met with 10 neighbors, I think we could’ve knocked this out and said what works and what doesn’t. You can have these meetings every month for the next year and get nowhere but if you’re willing to be good neighbors and meet with us, I think we’re willing to do that,” the same homeowner said to Dial and his team.
Dial declined to offer any rebuttal at the meeting, but EastIdahoNews.com later spoke with him in a follow-up conversation.
Since purchasing the land several months ago, Dial says he’s been surprised with the reaction from the community. He lives in Rigby, too, and he’s heard conversations for years about the desire for quality commercial development, especially a nice, family restaurant.
After reducing the amount of commercial development, he thought he was responding to the major concerns.
“Of the 100 people that were there, I believe there’s a silent majority that would love to see some commercial (development) come to Rigby,” Dial says.
Growth in Rigby is a reality and Dial says there is a need for affordable housing amid rising home prices. Building a housing development on the south side of 460 North is not going to impact residents as much as they think it will, he says.
“Ninety-nine percent of those people (in the housing development) are not going to be driving through their neighborhood. They’re going to leave and get on U.S. Highway 20 or head into Rigby,” says Dial. “There’s also a silent majority — like me, I’ve got three kids. I don’t know how my kids are going to have a starter home at $375,000 or $400,000. They’re probably going to have to rent (initially).”
After nearly two hours of hearing public input, the Planning and Zoning board discussed the matter among themselves and reluctantly agreed to recommend approval of the annexation.
“I hear you loud and clear,” board member Jennifer Campbell told those in attendance. “However, we abide by the rules and regulations of the comprehensive plan set forth within the parameters of our own county. When someone comes and presents something to us, (if it meets the requirements), we have to approve it, whether we like it or not. If we don’t follow our own rules, then you’re going to complain it’s the good old boys club.”
The board’s decision was met with disapproval from members of the public in attendance.
The City Council is expected to discuss Planning & Zoning’s recommendation during its meeting on July 7.