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City of Star looking at ways to combat uncontrolled growth

Star Mayor Trevor Chadwick is proposing ways to help reduce density in the area for the city's comprehensive plan.

STAR, Idaho — There is no escaping growth for cities in the Gem State and the City of Star Mayor Trevor Chadwick knows they are no exception.

"Growth is coming, but we can manage that growth and be responsible," said Chadwick.

Chadwick invited community members of Star to an open house Monday evening to chat about his proposal for the city's comprehensive plan to help reduce density in the area. He said it's an important step for the planning and future of Star.

"The responsible growth, in my opinion, is being able to service your citizens that are here, currently, and being able to service the future citizens that are going to be there," Chadwick said.

According to the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho (COMPASS), Star has more than doubled in population size within the last decade. Population size went from 5,793 in 2010 to 14,950 in 2022.

"The growth itself has produced the biggest change," Star resident and former city councilman Michael Keyes said.

Keyes said the city was off to a slow start when it came to planning for growth, but that has changed in recent years. He even believes Star has been able to pass other cities in the Treasure Valley when it comes to planning and development, like their Intergovernmental Agreement which allows the city and ITD to collect development fees to help pay for road projects and improvements within city limits.

"With the amount of planning and the staff that the city has added in the last four or five years, including getting a new mayor, the City of Star is far better prepared today than we were five years ago," Keyes said.

However, he said in terms of infrastructure there is still some catching up to do.

"The challenges that we're seeing on our infrastructure are primarily related to transportation and schools," Keyes said.

Keyes said nearly everyone experiences the traffic impacted by growth, but what they may not see is the overcrowding in schools. 

He said Eagle Elementary School is in discussions to bring in more portables for students and mentioned families living on the south side of Highway 44 are already busing students to schools in the City of Eagle.

"The districts I think are trying to adapt as best they can, but if they don't have the money, they don't have the money," Keyes said. He added one of the only ways for schools to get money to build new schools is by going for and passing a bond, which he believes people in the area are not looking to do.

"What we really need is a statewide solution, we need the legislature to do the work to create the ability for school districts to assess impact fees," Keyes said.

While Mayor Chadwick agrees, he said it could take some time so that's why he's looking to slow down the city's growth.

"I mean the one quick way to help alleviate some of the challenges we're facing is by reducing the available density to build on," Chadwick said.

Chadwick's proposal for the comprehensive plan will further reduce residential units on an acre by about 20%. He said some acres could have one unit and others could have up to three units, but there would not be areas that had five units like in the past. 

The mayor is looking to reduce the density of areas that are not developed.

The mayor believes by doing so it can better serve the current and future residents of Star with the infrastructure they currently have.

"Our city I think is at a juncture and a stage where we want to think differently out there and how we grow," Chadwick said.

Chadwick and city staff will bring the density proposal to the City Council at a public hearing in June.

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