Growthophobia Outbreak In Star

A severe outbreak of growthophobia has been reported in Star where resident growthophobes are uniting to oust the mayor and most of the councilors following a 158% increase in population in the past year.

Thanh Tan at KBCI-TV 2 did a nice job on the story of Pamela Leverett’s effort to circulate a recall petition on behalf of a group calling itself “Star Citizens for Smart Growth.” The citizens are suffering all of the symptoms of the dreaded growthophobia disease and are working for the cure–a new mayor and council.

The folks have the usual concerns–growth is outstripping the ability of the schools, roads, and sewers to cope with insurgents.

The best quote is from Mayor Nathan Mitchell, who stands to lose his job if the recall succeeds: “I don’t see anything positive coming out of this recall for the community.”

From what we saw in the KBCI report, Team Nathan may have to do some fancy talking to escape the might of the citizens at the ballot box. They only need 250 signatures to force an election and they claim to represent 400 households already.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. My sources tell me that Star has already promised developers that they will annex “fingers” of land all the way to Kingsbury Lane in Middleton which is on the other side of the Ada County line by a fer piece.

    This creates enclaves all the way along the Ada/Canyon County Border. Please, ladies recall their sorry souls and elect some people who aren’t in the developers’ pockets. I hope there still ARE such people.

  2. Doesn’t spelling the reporter’s name incorrectly call for self-bestowment of a Dope Award by the noble Guardian?

    EDITOR NOTE–Guardian took a self-inflicted dope slap, but it really was a typo. We are an equal opportunity awarder, however.

  3. I’m with Tam. I couldn’t get a lot from the news reports I recieved but it superficially appeared that the City government appears to be tools for the developers. Those residents should use their power while they still have it.

  4. jonny ringo
    May 18, 2006, 4:20 pm

    Political cleansing almost always works. “IF” valid signatures are collected. Send a message, the people are who they work for.

  5. THe folks in Star should call the Crescent Rim neighbors and get their “TOO DENSE MAKES NO SENSE” signs!

    This is another situation where the slogan fits perfectly!

  6. Sounds like a great conversation…..I would love the opportunity to discuss the issues with you any time…..
    Team Nathan

    EDITOR NOTE–We will gladly post anything you wish to share. No name calling or profanity.

  7. Herein lies one of the big dilemmas of public accountability. These citizens; two middle aged women, have taken on the machine of local City government. They have had and will continue to have a difficult time getting their word out to the citizenry en mass. The Mayor and Councilmembers, however, have access to oodles of face time (more than any of us care to see)on local television, and can make glib statements like “..interesting conversation. I’ll …. discuss the issues with you anytime”.

    Okay, Nate, tell us we are wrong. Tell us that your infrastructure, schools, etc are prepared to absorb the behemoth you call inevitable growth, consisting of ticky-tacky-tan-two-story-homes- with-backyards-too-small-for-a-swingset. Tell us that you aren’t up for a land grab over the Ada County line, which will cause a HUGE mess for tax collectors, school officials, etc.

    Tell us you aren’t preparing to eventually annex land that is in the Middleton School District. Flippance is one of the first signs that elected officials are OUT OF TOUCH. Many an out of touch small town mayor has been recalled. This is a forum…and like the song says, you move, I move, just like that. Well, Nate, it’s your move. Tell us the answers and don’t couch. We do, afterall, say nice things about people once in awhile.

  8. Nate Mitchell
    May 19, 2006, 9:45 am

    No name calling or profanity? What fun can that be? My quote that you liked so much simply meant that I think we can focus our energy on finding resolution to the concerns of all our citizens instead of starting a conflict that won’t change the pace of growth, won’t build us more schools, won’t build us more roads, etc.

    We all share the same concerns of development outpacing the infrastructure, it is not going to change unless we all work collectively towards making changes at the city, county, and state level. I think this state, and all of our jurisdictions can do a better job of making development bear a higher share of the increasing costs of doing business.

    We need to move past the debate of what density we should be platting and move towards a discussion of mitigating the financial impact of growth in every form it takes (i.e. large lots, skinny houses, condos, mansions on the river) Let’s make everyone make a choice about where they live, just make them pay appropriately for the decision they make.
    Team Nate

  9. Guardian the City Club is sponsoring a luncheon forum May 30 on “Planned Communities: Rural Sprawl or Responsible Growth?” featuring Dave Bieter, Judy Peavey Derr and Nancy Merrill as speakers. This could be very entertaining and certainly of interest to your readers. I’m signed up. Maybe Team Nathan would like to show up and relay his woes since his trials and tribulations could certainly be visited upon these community leaders as well.

    You can register for this forum by calling City Club at 371-2221, or by mail with your payment to City Club of Boise, Post Office Box 6521, Boise, ID 83707.

  10. As a resident of Star, I have become very frustrated with what appears to be a cavalier and haphazard approach to matching and managing growth to the comprehensive plan. However, I also feel that valley residents have become almost a bit too trigger happy in the recall area before they truly exhaust all other alternatives.

    This growth is going to go somewhere in this valley. If elected officials have any political will and savvy at all, they can push that growth into the category of “good growth”.

    Unfortunately, it appears that Star city leaders have much political will. In fact have heard it mentioned a few times (although I fail to remember which city council member to attribute it to and this is very rough paraphrase) that the city has no design review committee “because property rights trump the public good”. Have you guys seen some of the horror stories that are being built in Star?

    The new El Tenampa Restaurant has no less than 5 bright, in your face colors on its facade. What could have been quite a nice building looks circus like. Then there is the strip mall right next door. One quaint commercial building with turn of the century facade was a great addition to the community. Two was nice and kept up with market demand. Wow…those leased fast, lets’ build three more identical buildings without varying the setback, changing the curb appeal, or even putting much thought what sizes of space renters will need.

    What did we end up with? The commercial equivalent to Boise’s row house problem…

  11. Whoa Mayor. Long on glib short on specifics. You state: “it is not going to change unless we all work collectively towards making changes at the city, county, and state level.” How exactly shall we do that? What changes are you talking about? This forum is an ideal place to air out these ideas because this community on the Guardian cares about these issues. It also seems like you are passing the buck to state and county entities but are not addressing the specific concerns of your constituents. Isn’t it too late to make development pay once the development has been approved? Doesn’t the buck stop with the City of Star?

    Tam brought up specific questions the answers to which I was unable to locate in your post. Its my understanding that you have the power to make development pay for the city of Star’s projected infrastructure needs. Is this wrong? What specifically do you need from state government or the County to accomplish your stated goals? Also why do we need to change the subject. Why do we need to shift the debate away from density issues? I thought that was what planning was all about.

    Mayor I want to thank you for taking the opportunity to address these issues in a public forum. But you better be prepared to get into specifics and save the platitudes for your next campaign speech.

  12. Sysvphus Tam, and Jon….I am travelling right now. I will be back tomorrow and will get into specifics with you. I appreciate the opportunity to have a good open debate about these issues without the atmoshpere of a public hearing with another land use decision looming. Should be a great info exchange. Hopefully we can all learn something from each other. Tam, I din’t intend to be flippant at all. Just want to have a good conversation. Most of what you say has some truth behind it, and like always, there are two sides to the story. See ya on Saturday. Thanks for the time.


  13. Sharon Ullman
    May 19, 2006, 11:23 pm

    Does anyone recall that the State of Idaho had about a $218 million budget surplus to deal with this past legislative session, and it looks like they are heading that direction again? The problem is not that growth doesn’t pay for itself; the problem is that growth pays the wrong level of government.

    Infrastructure needs like schools, roads, sewer, emergency services, jails, etc. are provided by local government, but the income generated by new growth mainly goes to the State. Legislators in fast-growth areas such as ours need to get serious about trying to pass legislation to send at least some of those surplus funds back to the areas where they are generated, in order to help offset the cost of the additional infrastructure and services made necessary due to the growth.

    Mayor Nate is in a particularly good position to help work out the details, since Star and the surrounding are is within “urban” Ada County, yet has (at least until recently) maintained rural characteristics. He ought to be able to communicate effectively with people on both sides (urban and rural).

    My question to the Mayor is this: if you have access to a computer so that you can respond to the questions posed here, then why are you not able to provide at least some specifics as far as a response right now. Don’t tell me that the City of Star, like Ada County, has hired a PR person to help “spin” the elected officials out of their self-generated troubles and you need to get back to find out what to say?! 😉

  14. Let’s try to get some specifics out for everyone.

    Tam: The sewer, water, parks, and police are prepared and funded to handle the inevittable behemoth. Schools, Roads, Fire, and EMS need some help. We can solve some of the EMS and Fire needs with anticipated increased tax rev, but the taxes mostly only cover M & O budgets not capital improvements.

    Schools are in the same mess in Star as they are in the rest of the Meridian Joint School District #2. At or over capacity with kids in modulars. It has been about 50 years since any capital improvements have been done in Star…meaning no new schools. Our current and projected growth has been in front of the School Board and we anticipate a new Elementary School by Fall 08. Also, if current negotiations with land owners go well, we will secure two more elementary school sites, a mid and a high school site in the coming months.

    As I mentioned above, I think there are funding mechanisms that with some necessary Statute changes the Legislature could make available to Cities to better handle the growth. Improvement Districts, Impact Fees, Local Options Taxes, and Public Service Districts all would help, but are not currently available. Allowing Schools to collect revenue from the new construction rolls as fast as Cities do would be another great change.

    Roads…I could rant about roads until I die. We simply don’t collect enough money to fund road improvements. ACHD Impact Fees are severly restricted by State Statute, and we collect no capital improvement money for our State Highway’s from new construction. So each new house gets you about $1500 to build new roads with. Wow, let’s not spend it all in one spot. I do realize all my options add to the cost of new construction. That is where I think we need to make people migrating in make a choice. Either Pay up or don’t move here. Shouldn’t be a problem as the recent home price appreciation indicates, they are willing to pay.

    Here is the facts about the Canyon County land grap. We had an applicant request annexation and zoning of about 507 acres between the County line and Blessinger Road. We held a public hearing about 3 weeks ago and required the applicant to address numerous items including school siting, on and off site road improvements, density and types of uses, open spaces, and several other items.

    The requirements will go before every public agency that has jurisdiction over the ground, and the applicant can choose to comply with the agencies or choose not to be annexed. We will not effect the tax jurisdication boundaries of any service providers. We will not redraw school district boundaries. No turf wars going on. Everybody servicing the ground today will continue. There are four other cities in Idaho that are in two counties. Pocatello is the largest as it is in Bannock and Power counties. We will use as much institutional knowledge from them as possible. If we get word back from our fellow service providers that this will cause a HUGE mess for them we won’t proceed.

    Jon: the easiest thing I can tell you is that the Design Review deficiencies in our City ordinances are being addressed as our highest priority right now. I welcome you to be involved in the drafting of the guidelines so we can start implementing/enforcing sooner rather than later. Once we have an enforcable document approved by the residents we will establish a committee to enforce. You used the term “good growth”. I would also ask you to let us hear from you regarding how you individually define “good growth”. The more ideas we can include in our planning documents and policies the better.

    A quick update on the horror story known as El Tenampa. The colors painted will be changed within weeks. I think they are going to a beige…big surprise…beige in the Treasure Valley…I guess that is better than the ticky-tacky-tan we paint the houses right? The El Tenampa, however, is no longer intending to occupy the building. I think they are opening a Sports Bar.

    Sis: First I get a dope award for spelling your name wrong above…my apologies. I mentioned several of the changes I think need to take place at the other levels of government above. Basically, I would just like to see all elected officials get over their collective egos and let’s get caught up with what we can. The time and energy spent acting like what Guardian so appropriately called us Apes, monkeys and chimps, is time not listening to our constituents, not fixing problems, and validating everything this forum like to pound us on. As far as the funding options I spoke of earlier and there effectiveness once development is approved…I think we can tie most of the monies to building permits and Final Plats.

    Take Star for example. Since becoming a City we have issued about 1200-1400 building permits while we have platted about 4500 lots. I can still catch a large majority of money if we act now. The Final Plats and building permits are much slower to come than annexations and zoning approvals.

    As to changing the subject away from the density discussion…Don’t need to change it, lets just keep the entire picture in front of us. There is room for all types of development. I don’t think an (over) abundance of any on form of develpment is healthy. Each form brings it’s own associated financial, environmental, and cultural consequences.

    I just try to focus on mitigating as much of the negative impacts that I can control. Also, the buck does stop with the City of Star….I don’t shy away from responsibility, just ask for help from those I need it from. Obviously, with all the change taking place in Star I am going to have some people who disagree with what is going on. I will continue to reach out to them, trying to engage in good, honest, open debate….because trust me Tam, I am well aware of the tendancy to recall in many a small town. Hope some of this adds to the conversation. And Sis, hope to see ya on the 30th.

    EDITOR NOTE–Team Nate has impressed us. He used the GUARDIAN as it is intended. Who’s move is it now?

  15. Sharon: Star does not have a spin doctor….except for me of course. I was talking to you last night via wireless celllular access just about to leave a service area. Needed a little soul cleansing and fresh air, and just wanted to provide a complete response. I posted it a couple of hours ago…hope to see it soon.

    I do love the absolute distrust of anybody elected that you guys get a chance to whack at. Aren’t you excited about running again Sharon:-) Attempting to facilitate the conversation and allowing input from both sides (really said “all” sides) is my entire life right now. Heck, I was accused of having too many citizens involved with determining the course of the City….of the people, for the people, and by the people must just be a nice one liner from back in history.

    I think your comments about paying the wrong level of government are appropiate. School Districts should be the first to benefit. Cities and Counties should be able to survive on what we have (Did I just say that?). Shifting the schools O & M sound like a good idea? Of course I don’t agree with your comments about legislators getting serious….way too much potential for progress there.


  16. Wow!
    Team Nate really speaks up!
    Now where the heck is Team Dave in Boise?

  17. Go Star!!! Please re-call Nate so that we can get him to Boise or possibly Ada county. Sounds like he is equipped to solve the problems.
    Your problems are just beginning, we are on life-support in the rest of the county.

  18. Nate, thank you for a prompt and direct response. Yes, I would be interested in speaking with you about “good growth”. I will contact you at your city email address.

  19. Thank you Nate. You turned a corner.

  20. Thanks to all for the opportunity to have open, honest discussion. I am hoping we can continue to exhange ideas….and Sis, did I turn right or left?


  21. Married With Horses
    Jun 7, 2006, 3:29 pm

    Nate & Co. would like us to move away from the density issue????? FAT CHANCE. The mayor & city council would like folks to fall for the myth that a bunch of crazies from outside the Star city limits are engaged in some sort of war “against” the good citizens of Star. The bad against the good, the rich against the not-so-rich, the tree huggers against the proletariat, etc., etc. Hardly.

    The City of Star is trying to annex everything from here to Tijuana and rezone it, AT MINIMUM, as R3 or R4, regardless of whether it abuts existing homes with larger acreages, particularly those WITH LIVESTOCK.

    Aside from the obvious problems that will ensue when you plunk ritzy houses next to smelly cows, horses, llamas, goats and the like, there are other concerns such as potential liability issues. I was a kid once – and I know from experience that when you put subdivision children next to horses, the kids are NOT going to stay on their side of the fence. The Law of Attractive Nuisance scares the living snot out of us! As does the threat of the loss of all the things that we – and MANY people – moved to Star FOR. These include peace and quiet and fresh air and open space.

    Do you see Nate & Co. making any substantial effort to PRESERVE these qualities? I certainly don’t. They can’t even get their act together enough to acquire land for future schools though there is apparently plenty of money to do so. Their idea of a park is a small, bare square of land in downtown with no amenities whatsoever except GRASS. They’ve allowed abominable commercial developments including that god-awful western toon town and the gaudily painted Mexican place going up next to it. They allowed a new Chapala situated so that headlights from its patrons’ cars (in its postage-stamp parking lot) point right into the windows of a brand-new home which will probably never be occupied as a result.

    I will never forget listening to a nice young-ish father get up at one of the City Council meetings to testify that he had moved his family here from Arizona and given up EIGHTEEN YEARS of seniority at his former employer to do so. He wanted his kids to grow up in the kind of community HE did – only to find that Star is rapidly turning into the kind of community he’d just left. He was terribly & bitterly distressed.

    I will never forget the testimony of a young mom who grew up in Star, moved away and then ultimately moved back to Star once she had kids – into a new subdivision – with the hope that one day she could “trade up” to a horse property in Star so her kids could grow up like she did with open space and animals. With nothing lower than R-3 or R-4 density, that is purely a pipe dream.

    Star needs a VARIETY of zoning categories to satisfy the needs of ALL its citizens (and future citizens). Nate & Co. want folks to fall for the notion that people with livestock and five acres are a bunch of rich a**holes who have only disdain for struggling young families. That is really a laugh. We’ve been married nearly 40 years. We were a “struggling young family” once, too. Heck, we’re STILL struggling. We’ve worked, saved, sacrified and risked EVERYTHING to move to Star so we could have our horses at home instead of boarded out somewhere. We work from sunup to sundown and then some to take care of them and to keep the place in good repair. We bought an older, rundown place and are fixing it up so it is safe for the horses and will be our “nest egg” for retirement. Our neighbors are thrilled that we’ve improved THEIR property values by cleaning up the mess that was here before we arrived.

    Now, Nate & Co. want to put high-density housing all around our subdivision, which will drive away many of our neighbors and eradicate the habitat of “our” beloved wildlife. We’ll be buried in dust, bombarded with noise and will have to figure out a way to defend our “borders” so we won’t be sued if a trespasser is injured by one of our horses. Nate & Co. are threatening to ruin our lives and diminish our property values – and have the audacity to call US the problem.

    We’ve been to meetings where if the word “horse” or “acreage” is mentioned, you can see the sneer building on the lips of the mayor and three of the city council members. We – and hardworking folks like us – are not “outsiders” as Nate & Co. would like you to believe – but we certainly are the ENEMY – to Nate & Co. – an enemy they must destroy so they can complete the paving of our beautiful community.

    All we are asking is that zoning densities – at least on the boundaries of the new developments – are more compatible and in keeping with the lot sizes of the properties they abut. Instead of 3 or 4 houses to the acre next to an existing 5- or 10-acre property, what is wrong with one house per acre or two? Why do we have to jump from “Agriucultural” to R-3 or R-4 in one big step? Hey folks, when the open space is gone, it is gone forever – and along with the loss of open space EVERYONE IN STAR will lose privacy, clean air, wildlife and quiet. Maybe that is no big deal to some people but it is a big deal to many.

    There should be CHOICES in Star. Nate & Co. offer us only THEIR vision of the way things should be. Anyone who doesn’t share their narrow vision is labeled an outsider or a Californian. The reason so-called “outsiders” are fighting Nate & Co. is because we are in the county – and we wouldn’t be fighting at all if Nate & Co. had not intruded into our neighborhoods and set about ctrying to change their very character through unacceptably high zoning densities.

    When all of Star is nothing but a sea of ROOFTOPS, when there are acres of temporary classrooms at Star Elementary that have been there for ten or fifteen or twenty years, when Star’s children are being bussed all over the valley, when traffic is gridlocked not ONLY on State Street but on New Hope and Floating Feather and Beacon Light, when our wells fail while the newbies are playing in their lawn sprinklers and swimming pools, I hope the good citizens of Star will look back on this debate and pin the blame squarely where it belongs – on the shortsighted, narrow-minded, so-called leaders who are trying very hard to make Star into a smaller, trashier Meridian. Ugh.

  22. Team Nate,

    Some of your talk sounds good. However, your decisions don’t match. I am a land development engineer with over 12 years experience. My job depends on growth so I certainly don’t want to stop it. However, there is such a thing as smart growth and it is not happening in Star. Go ahead and try to talk your way out of this one. I hope your slick words fail and we get a group that knows how to implement smart growth.
    By the way nice shantytown strip mall and disco colored Mexican restaurant. That lack of a design review is really working wonders for you.

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