This week I’m continuing our update to the community about the City's Strategic Plan. As you might recall, there are six focus areas: transportation and infrastructure, business and economic vitality, public health and safety, a vibrant and sustainable community, government excellence and responsible growth – today’s focus. Our strategic plan states the following as it relates to responsible growth:
Meridian will responsibly promote growth that enhances its long-term comprehensive vision and prioritizes infill development. We will encourage affordable, diverse housing options and high-quality communities.
In order to help us grow responsibly, we have identified several key goals that our departments are actively working on.
Prioritize investment of city infrastructure and encourage road and school facilities in identified areas to grow responsibly and maximize delivery of city services.
We have been primarily growing and investing City resources in northwest and southeast Meridian – both known growth priority areas. The City is preparing to open two new fire stations – one in each area – as well as a police precinct in northwest Meridian. The City’s water and sewer resources are also being invested in the northwest area as we prepare for growth out by Owyhee High School, and the future home of Cole Valley Christian school. Prior to making these public safety and utility investments, the City completed a specific area plan known as the Fields District Subarea for northwest Meridian. That plan was done in conjunction with other service providers like the Ada County Highway District and the Idaho Transportation Department.
Highway 16, which is now under construction, and Chinden Boulevard, which has recently been completed with two lanes in each direction, were both contemplated as the Fields Plan was being developed. Further, the needs of the arterial and local road network was vital in understanding how the land uses would work. The widening of Ustick Road, and intersection improvements along Black Cat are coming soon, as development is poised to take shape as well.
In south Meridian, Locust Grove from Overland to Victory will be wrapping up construction soon. Additionally, Lake Hazel is being completed between Eagle and Locust Grove. This will help patrons traveling to Discovery Park, which is completing its phase two expansion, Gem Prep Charter school, the future library, and more. Synthesizing infrastructure improvements with community partners in growth areas helps us and our partners direct growth, instead of allowing development to occur wherever, which can often times lead to gaps in infrastructure and levels of service.
Implement the Goals in the Comprehensive Plan to ensure orderly development.
At the heart of the Comprehensive Plan is the premise that the City will grow in a responsible manner. Growth occurs over time and on a project-by-project basis. Implementing the goals of the Comprehensive Plan, therefore, is an ongoing task and is done with each and every project that is proposed. As part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan updates, done annually with City Council, staff discuss growth areas, development trends and plans for infrastructure. While the goals of the Comprehensive Plan rarely change significantly, the means to ensure we are meeting the vision of the Plan do change from time-to-time. Implementing the goals of the Plan to ensure orderly, responsible growth is typically done with analysis and “findings” in a staff report. Our City’s Planning department is in the process of updating the staff report template that gives City Council valuable data into each hearing level application that comes before them, helping City Council make with the best possible decision for the community.
Utilize impact fees, cooperative agreements, urban renewal districts and other tools to ensure that development pays its proportional share of service impacts.
In 2021, our City created three new urban renewal districts to help guide commercial development and invest in our downtown and along Overland Road. These urban renewal areas will help bring transportation and other infrastructure improvements to these areas as development occurs. Additionally, our economic development staff are evaluating other tools such as a Community Infrastructure District or Local Improvement District as a way to grow responsibly in areas outside of urban renewal areas that need infrastructure or services. We also updated the impact fees we collect for police, fire and parks from new commercial and residential development. By updating the fees we are able to ensure that growth pays the increased cost of growth when it comes to new facilities.
Establish enhanced housing affordability options in new subdivisions to create additional opportunities for all.
Housing has been a hot topic over the past several years. We have heard from many in our community about concerns of housing attainability. Earlier this year, we established a Housing Task Force to expand on conversations that were heard by City Council. The Task Force is evaluating everything from accessory dwelling unit standards, which could permit additional dwellings on property, to zoning code restrictions, to the fees charged to developers to see where the City may be able to keep costs down to construct dwellings. Our planning staff is also exploring updates with the mixed-use project standards, which govern how condominiums and or other multifamily projects are integrated into mixed-use projects.
Apply design standards and ordinances to commercial and residential development to ensure quality communities with a diversity of amenities.
Our Community Development Department has a Focus Group that evaluates our Unified Development Code (UDC). This group is tasked with updating and reviewing our development code standards and advising City Council on proposed changes. This group plays an integral role in reviewing trends, providing research and suggesting changes that make our developments the best they can be. The Focus Group is currently working on a multiphase update to our code system which includes parking regulations, drive-through design standards, and building height allowances along Interstate 84, to name a few.
Thank you for taking the time to read about our responsible growth efforts as we work alongside our partners. To learn more about our Strategic Plan, please visit www.meridiancity.org/strategicplan, and I look forward to continuing to update you on our plan in upcoming blog posts.