Quarterly Performance Evaluation: Smart Growth
Updated: Jul 27, 2020
This is the next article in my series of quarterly performance evaluations reflecting on our progress vs. what I focused on in my campaign for Meridian City Council. As a businesswoman, a big part of how I look at how things are going is performance evaluations, you can find the first one on Accessible Government and Representation here.
Our land use decisions stick with us for a long time. Most developments, especially phased residential ones, are delivered over a number of years. It's important for people to realize, that the changes we make now to our development process and approach to growth will materialize over the next five years or more, and that some of the pain points and learnings we can take away today came from past decisions. The important thing I believe is to try and strike the right balance in how we are growing, learn from the past, and implement prioritization of infill development vs. sprawling development.
In the attached article, you will find more detail on how Meridian City Council's philosophy is evolving. There isn't a revolution down at City Hall, but we are acknowledging that the cost of growth is going to be higher to provide services in some areas than others within our city.
Here are some of the things we are working on to embrace purposeful growth that enhances our city and works for us in the long-run:
Priority Growth Areas: We have stated that our highest priority is infill development. For development expanding to the outskirts or farther from transportation corridors, council is exploring a framework to look at development. Priority Growth Areas is an initiative that we started working on this year to prioritize areas where we can keep an adequate five minute fire response time, adequate police response times, where we have water connections, sewer sheds and trunk lines, and other areas that we have already made investments. For us to expand outside of these areas should be more challenging because it will cost our taxpayers significantly more.
Respond to the Community on Open Space: During the Comprehensive Plan process we heard loud and clear that our community wants us to take a look at our open space standards. It's going to be an area where we spend more focus, and I have noticed this year that developers are coming in with applications that have more amenities and open space than last year because they know it is such a high priority. Council has given the Planning Department the green light to explore consulting work and survey resources for this topic.
Transportation and Parking Concerns: There has been a larger emphasis on City Council looking for adequate parking, and some applications have been denied on the basis of transportation / traffic and parking concerns. In general, planning a large amount of apartments or density in an area without a near-term plan to improve the traffic situation on a two-lane road (for example) would be a challenge without compelling reasons to move forward if it wasn't an area we planned for density.
School Overcrowding: This is an area that I am pushing on and started to engage in more towards the end of the first quarter. I have denied certain applications where the schools were dramatically overcrowded without hearing input and a plan to move forward from West Ada. I will continue to push for additional meetings to coordinate with the school district, and for better input from WASD as we look to them to give us a longer-term roadmap to meeting the needs of families and students with our growth, and to get better data from them as we evaluate development applications.
Overall grade: B
Focus Areas for the Next Few Quarters of 2020:
We have set out this year with a very purposeful and engaged City Council and I am pleased with the start to the year and how we are engaging with residents and developers in planning for purposeful growth for our city that meets the needs of additional housing but also ensures that our growth makes sense from a long-term financial standpoint for taxpayers.
Going forward, we have a lot of hard work to do on updating our UDC code, engaging with the consultants on projects to further open space standards and initiatives within Meridian, and the finalization of our Priority Growth Areas.
I encourage all of the residents of Meridian who are interested in getting involved in the process to reach out to me directly so I can connect you with like-minded residents. Similarly, I will continue to meet with and guide Developers on how we are setting an even playing field and how they can be successful.