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Nampa mayor: trying to control growth 'like holding your hand under a waterfall'

The mayor of what is now Idaho's third-largest city says the question about growth isn't how to slow it down, but how to use space wisely.

NAMPA, Idaho — Nampa is Idaho's third-largest city. Since 2000, its population has more than doubled -- from fewer than 52,000 in 2000 to more than 106,000 in 2021, according to data and estimates from the U.S. Census and COMPASS.

It's a pace that Mayor Debbie Kling says is way too fast. It's also something she cannot control, but she can manage try to manage.

"Someone once said, it's like holding your hand under a waterfall, right and saying, 'stop.' It isn't that easy," she said.

Mayor Kling cannot stop her city's growth; no one can. She says the key is instead deciding how to grow.

"Nampa has finite growth opportunity, finite space. So we need to be really wise in how we use our space of what we're bringing in. And that's been probably the topic of discussion that we spent a lot of time in is how do you grow wisely," Kling said.

Growing wisely means trying to balance all the housing growth with business growth. Kling said there's almost 5 million square feet of industrial buildings being built or planned in the past year.

"We want better paying jobs for our citizens so that they can live here and work here," she said.

For the people of Nampa, better-paying jobs are great, but according to the city's surveys, people's number-one concern is the same thing that's a major concern for people across the valley -- traffic.

"It's a high priority for the city. And so really focusing on how to move people in and through Nampa, easily," Kling said.

The city is chip sealing more roads every year and is now using a system where it can adjust traffic lights remotely, which has reportedly already cut down on commute times.

Taxes are another one of the top concerns for Nampans. Canyon County, which includes Nampa, has the sixth-highest median property tax in the state. But Nampa is only one taxing district in the county, and the city has no control over assessed home values.

Mayor Kling said she and the city council are always looking to trim their budget, do more with less, and use impact fees, which are charges for the impact of new development.

"We've increased our impact fees, because the other thing that citizens have said is growth needs to fund growth," Kling said. "Being good stewards of the taxpayer dollars is extremely important to us."

Safety is also important to everyone in Nampa. While there has been an uptick in drug-related crime, the rate of violent crimes against persons, like murder and assault, has dropped by 38 percent in the past four years.

Kling said a big reason for that is the collaboration between all the police chiefs across the Treasure Valley,

"We can be tough on crime and push it out of Nampa. And we are doing an amazing job," Kling said. "But they're just going to move to someplace else in the Treasure Valley, and so the collaboration is critical."

Water is another concern as the city grows. That's why the city is introducing a Drought Task Force, and expanding its wastewater treatment plant to the tune of $200 million.

Again, the mayor cannot slow growth, but Kling believes it may slow down on its own. She said there was a significant decline in housing permits coming in during October, which is bad news for the housing market, but could give the city a break to catch up.

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