Some Rexburg homeowners are at odds with the city over how and where to plan for rapid growth at BYU-Idaho.
City leaders say new housing should be built right in Rexburg. Homeowners don’t like that and held a community meeting Thursday night.
About 50 people showed up to hear from members of the Northwest Original Plat Neighborhood Association – a group formed in March because of the ongoing development.
They say everyone’s neighborhood is “under siege.” City leaders argue they’re taking a proactive, pragmatic approach.
Mayor Rich Woodland and community director Val Christensen say infill and redevelopment is the best way to provide housing for the additional 1,000 BYU-I students every year. That means building on vacant lots in the city rather than out in rural zones.
The mayor says the goal is to have a walkable city, maintain low levy rates and keep costs down. He says building further out will drive-up infrastructure costs because sewer lines and services would have to be extended.
People at the meeting say they’re not opposed to the development itself.
“Personally, what I’m hoping, and I think a lot of the neighborhood goes along with that, is that they’ll do it in moderation,” association member Martha School said.
They’re concerned about zone changes, property values, and the magnitude of 4 and 5 story projects they say don’t fit in with existing neighborhoods.
“I think they’re right in feeling the way they feel,” Val Christensen with the community development said. “Whenever you have change, it’s hard to handle. But I think all good requires some change. And so what we’d like to do is stay ahead and do it the right way – change the correct way. We’re not going to keep the university from growing.”
Members of the association say the purpose of this meeting was to inform people and find a citywide voice.
A question and answer session got pretty heated. Many raised concerns about how quickly the university is expanding and whether the city can do anything to slow it down.
The city says a guidelines document for planning infill and redevelopment is in the works. There will be another public hearing when that is finalized.