Rexburg City Council proposed their intentions to update the Comprehensive Plan for the city during their meeting on July 6.
According to the city’s website for the project, “The Comprehensive Plan … is a community-informed policy document that considers many facets of the community, in but not limited to: how to respond to growth; ensure orderly land use and development patterns; where major infrastructure and facilities should be anticipated; resource allocation; economic development; park and open space planning; and regional coordination. The updated Plan will ensure that policies and programs accommodate the challenges and opportunities associated with growth and support the City in being “America’s Family Community.”“
The project is anticipated to take 12 months to complete. Over the 12 months, the project will be divided into three phases: Foundation, opportunities, and choices and plan.
According to the project‘s website, the goal of the first phase is to gather information from the community on areas the city can improve and ask key questions on values, key issues and opportunities for the future of Rexburg.
One way they are doing this is through a questionnaire. The questionnaire will be available through Aug. 31. Anyone living in Rexburg, including BYU-Idaho students, can fill it out.
The survey asks the following questions:
— What do you love most about Rexburg?
— What is your top priority to address in the updated Comprehensive Plan?
— What issues might arise in Rexburg in the future if not addressed now?
— What is your second priority to address in the updated Comprehensive Plan?
— What are the best ways to inform the community about and invite them to participate in this planning process?
— Would you be interested in participating in a small group meeting this fall to discuss opportunities and choices for the future of Rexburg?
— What best describes your relationship with the City of Rexburg?
Additionally, you will answer questions about your support for community vision statements and goals for the community.
In order to fill out this survey, you will need to create an account tied to your email or Facebook account before completing it.
After receiving input from the Rexburg community, updating the Comprehensive Plan will move into phase two.
According to the projects website, “… this second outreach phase will include a set of small-group workshops to discuss and review priorities for guiding goals and implementation strategies.”
There will be two ways workshops will be run: in person or online. In-person workshops will be held tentatively the week of Oct. 17 this year.
The project will then move into its third phase.
According to the project’s website, during this phase, “… the team will assemble a Draft Plan for review and refinement. Key components from the document will be presented at an open house and a complete version of the document will be available online for public review.”
The tentative date for this open house is March 13, 2023.
A significant portion of Wednesday’s meeting was dedicated to a public hearing on annexing 795 S. 5th W., an address near Mesa Falls and Eden apartments, into Rexburg and how to rezone the property.
The Lawrence family, the previous owners of the property, expressed a desire to designate the four-acre property into apartments as opposed to a city park initially proposed by the city and other community members.
“Let me just say that my siblings and I considered many options and debated over a considerable length of time about what to do with the property including selling to the city,” said Kerry Lawrence, representative of the estate at the public hearing. “We didn’t reach agreement then, and we chose to go a different route. So that option is is off the table.”
Will Wade, the contractor chosen to build the apartments, sought to ease community worries.
“I’ve tried to do a lot of due diligence and reaching out to members of the community,” Wade said. “In speaking to some of those members of community, there are a couple of concerns, (and) a couple people raise those concerns.”
The three main concerns he addressed were increased traffic, pedestrian safety and city density.
“In order to mitigate that (traffic), I’ve tried to do a couple of things,” Wade said. “The first is already commit in writing to give a portion of the property to the city … so that they can expand the road to accommodate that traffic. The zone changes approved can be used to fund additional law enforcement, speed cameras and speed bumps to better enforce the speed limit on Fifth West, so you don’t get people that are speeding. Lastly, we’ll incur the cost of building out the sidewalk for pedestrian use.”
Wade also addressed citizen concerns about how building more apartments would impact city culture.
“We look at a lot of the city, and there’s a lot of apartment towers,” Wade said. “I understand that it changes the feel of the city. It makes a little bit more commercial, a little less residential, a little bit less of that neighborhood feel. That’s why I’ve committed to build townhomes instead of apartments. These townhomes are designed for families who put down roots who will be active contributing members of the community.”
The public hearing was divided into three sections. First, the city council heard from those in support of annexing and rezoning the property to increase its density from Rural Residential One to Medium density Residential Two.
Advocating for annexation and apartments
The main advocates for annexation and building the apartments were members of the Lawrence family.
“As I look around, town growth is happening or has happened all over town,” Lawrence said. “And that’s so natural in a town, especially in an area surrounding an expanding university. When I was a kid growing up, I wasn’t happy with the houses that were going in across the street, but they did, and I soon realized that continuing change as part of our lives.”
Arguing against more apartments
The second group the City Council heard from was those against annexation, rezoning or using the property to build apartments. Many from this group lived in the same neighborhood as the property.
The critiques centered around similar concerns brought up by Wade.
“If it leads to rezoning to Medium Density Residential Two for the building of more apartments or townhomes, I’m opposed,” said Jeff Jacobson, who lives right across the street. “If it leads to increased traffic and speeding without real efforts to curb speeding by city government, I am opposed. If it ignores the wishes of approximately 75 signees on the recent petitions that made it to planning and zoning, I’m opposed. If it fails to preserve the natural resources and open space the Comprehensive Plan purports to do, I’m opposed.”
Other members of the community expressed apprehension over how the property was being rezoned.
“Mesa Falls at medium density residential two is extremely high density to me,” said Faith Jacobson, another neighbor of the Lawrence family. “There are so many people. Eden is high-density residential one. The thought of something potentially being built there as high-density residential two is mind-boggling. I don’t know how you could fit more people in that. The fact that that could even be considered for that residential area is just mind-boggling.”
After hearing opinions from all sides, the City Council voted in favor and made a motion to accept the annexation and rezone the property.