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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: Idaho

Treasure Valley Futures
Partnership Plans For Smart Future
Hidden Springs
Good Intentions in the Middle of Nowhere

Treasure Valley Futures
Partnership Plans For Smart Future

Though suburban sprawl may conjure up visions of L.A. or Phoenix, the rugged, southwest corner of Idaho -- home to Boise and one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation -- faces serious traffic and air-quality problems stemming from poorly planned growth. But there is hope. Treasure Valley Futures, a smart-growth plan being put together by local leaders, points a way out of the mess.

Midway through 1997, Boise Mayor Brent Coles and other public officials from the area agreed to better coordinate their land-use and transportation planning. The Treasure Valley Partnership, as this project is called, brings together officials from seven towns and two counties in Southwest Idaho. As part of this effort the partnership helped create Treasure Valley Futures, a public education and planning project for the area. With grant money, research is being done on smart-growth solutions to local sprawl-related problems.

The group is still working on creating a valley-wide plan to protect open space, but a few towns have made progress. Nampa, home to the Idaho Center, is about to refurbish its downtown and is planning to make future growth accessible to commuter rail or other public transportation. The town of Star is also planning to revitalize its main street. And the Partnership recently pledged to restore rail access to Boise and surrounding communities.

If other communities in the region follow through, Idaho's rejuvenated small towns -- linked by greenbelts, hiking trails and commuter rail -- could one day be a model for smart growth in the West.

Hidden Springs
Good Intentions in the Middle of Nowhere

Can a development that preserves hundreds of acres of open space and includes energy-efficient homes and neo-traditional construction be called sprawl? Unfortunately, yes. Though Hidden Springs has all the trappings of smart growth, the development -- located outside of Boise and consisting of over 1,000 houses -- is sprawl.

The first issue is the project's location -- at least 10 miles from any significant development. Suburban sprawl has crept far along route 84, the main highway that links Boise to towns north and south, and the area suffers from increasing traffic and air pollution. Located in the foothills and without any real public transportation or job opportunities, Hidden Springs will add to these woes.

The problems with its location are compounded by the scale of the project. It will add thousands of people to an isolated area far from existing resources. Though the developers tout the 800-900 acres of open space that the development will preserve, Hidden Springs is located in an undeveloped riverbed at the base of steep foothills. Much of what is being preserved is not easily built on, and the area where construction will take place is ecologically sensitive. True, Hidden Springs could be worse, but it also could be a whole lot better.

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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