Printed on: June 15, 2013

Envision Madison

NATE SUNDERLAND
nsunderland@postregister.com

REXBURG -- Madison County turned the page on 100 years of history this year.

Now community leaders are using the centennial to launch Envision Madison with the hope of developing a blueprint for social and physical growth for the next 30 to 50 years.

"It is our turn to plan and envision a future and leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren," Commissioner Jon Weber said.

At a kick-off event Thursday, representatives from Rexburg, Sugar City, Madison County, Brigham Young University-Idaho, Madison Economic Partners, as well as the business community and residents, spoke about future planning.

Since February, a group of 80 to 100 local representatives have worked with Envision Utah of Salt Lake City to profile Madison County.

Envision Utah has developed future plans for Utah communities since 1997. Earlier this year, a random telephone and Internet survey was conducted among some 450 permanent residents and BYU-Idaho students to help develop the Madison profile.

The survey posed questions about community values and growth, as well as positive and negative aspects of living in the Rexburg area.

"The biggest things we found was that overall folks in Rexburg are very positive about their community -- you feel it's headed in the right direction," project manager Jay Baker said. "We also saw the relationship between BYU-Idaho and the community is very strong ... and both sides see the relationship as a good thing."

Common concerns among those surveyed included traffic congestion near BYU-Idaho, future job availability and opportunities for children to stay and work in Rexburg.

Envision Madison is seeking more comments and ideas from residents during workshops next week.

"We want to see how you would play out the future, using your values, your hopes and dreams and how you feel about the community," Envision Utah President Robert Grow said Thursday.

Envision Utah will compile the data and hold town hall meetings this fall. The completed plan will be presented at a December open house.

BYU-Idaho President Kim Clark said Envision Madison is a good way for the school to publicly support the community.

"BYU-Idaho and (Rexburg) need to grow together in a balanced way. Over ... several years, we have undertaken a variety of efforts to make that happen," Clark said. "Not all that work has been publicly visible, but the university has worked very closely with ... Rexburg and Madison County.

Rexburg and Madison County leaders stressed the need for grass-roots involvement.

"We want you -- instead of the politicians --- to make this plan," Rexburg Mayor Richard Woodland said Thursday. "We want you to help guide, direct ... and lead us."

Still, Envision Madison is not without its critics.

Individuals representing Save Our Sovereignty passed out fliers at the kick-off. The fliers characterized the project as a top-down approach "designed to make the public think and feel it was their idea in the first place."

The fliers also questioned the cost of hiring Envision Utah.

"Our community isn't a mess. I don't know why we need to spend public money on this -- it's a waste," group leader Dan Roberts said.

The Envision Madison project carries a $289,000 price tag. So far, $145,000 has been raised to cover the cost.

Madison County contributed $10,000; Rexburg, 30,000, Sugar City, $2,000; and BYU-Idaho, $40,000. The remainder was donated by local residents and businesses.

Madison Economic Partners is soliciting donations and grants to cover the remainder of the cost.

Another concern is that because Envision Madison is a nonbinding plan, government and community leaders could ignore the recommendations.

"That's why we need broad public support," Baker said. "We want this to be reflective of the public's will so community leaders know it represents the voice of the people when they make decisions."

Nate Sunderland can be reached at 542-6763.

Envision Madison workshops All three workshops begin at 7 p.m. on the following dates:

Tuesday: South Fork Elementary School in Archer and Sugar-Salem Junior High School in Sugar City.

Wednesday: Brigham Young University-Idaho's Taylor Chapel multipurpose room

Thursday: Madison High School's main gymnasium.