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A Better Approach to Growth Management

Newspaper: Teton Valley News

As one of the fastest growing counties in Idaho, it has become clear that we need a better approach to managing growth. Growth is apparent for most county residents – we see dirt being moved, new construction in all reaches of the county; we hear the “beep beep” of reversing construction trucks and their roar as they barrel down Hwy. 33 or Ski Hill Road.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I, who have always loved Teton Valley were in Jackson and for the first time thought it wouldn’t be a bad place to live, if of course we could afford to live there. We considered that Jackson has all the growth issues we do, but at least the community seemed to be getting real benefits from the growth: libraries, recreation centers, parks, recycling centers, well funded schools, mechanisms for affordable housing, etc. In our valley, it just feels like we’re getting higher taxes and a lot of construction trucks.

We’ve got growth and that can be a good thing. It has the ability to provide prosperity for valley residents when managed correctly with informed and consistent decision making that implements the community’s vision for growth. I truly believe that Commissioners Young and Stevenson are doing a fine job by focusing on a better process for managing growth for the future of Teton County.  If what we want and need is managed growth, then updating and improving our current planning documents is a critical need.

Our current path has us dying by a thousand cuts with a backlog of over 80 subdivision proposals representing thousands of new lots.  Unless we develop, as Commissioners Stevenson and Young are trying to do, a better approach we will see more development that does not pay its way.  Existing property owners often subsidize this kind of development, which leaves us further behind on community services that we all need like roads, schools and adequate government infrastructure.  The current approach is just not sustainable.

Since Commissioners Young and Stevenson have taken office six months ago they have made substantial progress and more good work is ahead.  Whether it is a long-term solid waste plan, implementing a long-overdue capital improvements plan, or recognizing that we don’t have the capacity to deal with all our planning issues and hiring an experienced consulting firm to help us, they are moving forward and addressing the real concerns of the citizens who elected them.  

We all know that some folks would like to distract us from the real issues in Teton County, but that is not the path of progress or a better future.  The real issues are clear: we need a better approach to managing growth, we must work together to maintain our quality of life for our kids and grandkids, we must protect our water resources and adequate open space.  We have elected officials in office now who are advancing that positive agenda and they deserve our support.  

Frankly, VARD isn't interested in the side debate, we are interested in the important work of planning for the future, which can only really happen if the focus is on the real issues and we work together to accomplish responsible growth in Teton County.

Kathy Rinaldi, Executive Director
Valley Advocates for Responsible Development (VARD)


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