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Gerry Armstrong

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If you want to gripe about growth in Ada County, Gerry Armstrong has heard it before. The director of planning and development at Ada County says that because Ada County is in the middle of re-writing its major planning ordinances, now is the time for the public to get involved. Although new planned community developments pop up seemingly every week, Armstrong says that's inevitable.

BW: People call our paper in a panic about planned communities. They say they want to stop these developments. I presume you get those calls, too. What do you say to those people?

First of all, we have to recognize one thing: Whether we like it or not, there is going to be growth. The latest statistics show that over the next 20 years, we're going to see the most phenomenal growth in the United States in our history. Obviously, Idaho has been targeted as one of those growth areas, because you don't necessarily have to have industry any more to have a job. So all we're doing is getting our proportionate share of that growth. I'm predicting that we're going to double here in the next 15 years. That's what I explain to people here: Growth is going to happen.

If people want to affect the way a development happens, when is the best time for them to be involved?

There's two things going on right now that people really need to get engaged in, and I'm serious about this. It's easy to complain, but unless you get involved in the process, it's hard to affect the outcome.

There's two really important things going on right now. One is the Blueprint for Good Growth. You hear a lot about it, but we need people to get involved.

The second thing for people to really get involved in, and we've never done it before, is the Communities in Motion. That's huge. That's looking at our future as far as congestion, traffic, safety and those kinds of issues.

The third thing that I think is really important for people to understand is that in the county, the last time we re-did our Comprehensive Plan was in 1996. Well, hell, we've doubled in size in that time period.

So, right now, Ada County, in order to implement that Blueprint for Good Growth and the Communities in Motion, we're updating our Comprehensive Plan. That's a fully public-generated process. There's steering committees, technical committees that people can get involved in, there's public hearings.

Given that many proposed developments are on the books now, isn't it too late for the Blueprint for Good Growth to affect them?

It's too late in this: Whether we like it or not, we have certain ordinances and [comprehensive] plans already in place. If somebody came in, let's say Avimor, we cannot not process that application.

Is it fair to say that because developers know the Comprehensive Plan and the Blueprint for Good Growth are both set for revision that there's a rush to get development plans submitted?

We're seeing growth happen at an increased pace. It's just naturally happening. Let me give you Ada County's perspective: Three years ago, we processed 4,100 lots. The year after that, we processed 6,600 lots. This last year we did 9,100 lots. Blueprint for Good Growth and Communities in Motion weren't really in effect. It's just the natural growth cycle, is how I would explain it. This year, we're going to see well over 10,000 lots, maybe 11,000 lots. Those are real numbers. So what's happening, that we've never seen before, is people from outside this area are seeing the opportunity for growth. Boise's been held up as one of the top cities in the nation. So you know that national exposure is having an impact.

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