Printed on: April 02, 2013

Economic development group looks ahead to the year 2050

By Joseph Law
Rexburg Standard Journal

REXBURG -- Envision Madison is moving forward.

A meeting last month laid out the progress of the planning process that is projected to cost around $289,000 and take about 18 months to complete. Funding would come from government agencies and private sources.

Among those at the meeting were government leaders from Sugar City, Rexburg and Madison County, as well as representatives from Brigham Young University-Idaho and a cross-section of people from the community.

Madison Economic Partners, the county's economic development agency, is promoting Envision Madison. It's based on Envision Utah, a planning project that began in 1997 in that state.

Envision Utah planners, who would be involved in the local planning process, said they have the ability to develop projections and planning possibilities based on values identified by residents of an area such as Madison County.

"The whole premise behind this is that citizens, if given enough information, will create the best decisions," said Scott Johnson, Rexburg's director of economic development.

Although local governments have not yet signed off on the project, a kickoff summit for Envision Madison is May 9. That would be followed by a series of public workshops from May 21 to 23.

At last month's meeting, Christie Oestema, a lead planner with Envision Utah who also is working with Envision Madison, said the process is designed to "brainstorm the future" with planning extending to at least the year 2050.

Since 1990, about 135 acres have been developed each year in Madison County, Oestema said, a trend that if continued could add about 10 square miles of urban development within the county by 2050.

Envision Madison will build upon previous planning efforts, Johnson said.

One significant difference, however, is that the focus of previous planning efforts has been from the top down. Envision Madison is expected develop from the bottom up and involve residents from across the spectrum.

"We're bringing people together who disagree," he said.

Several of the top local issues identified by committee members already involved in the Envision Madison process were reviewed last month. They include planning for growth and preserving a family-friendly environment, maintaining a rural atmosphere, providing economic opportunities for young people, planning for recreation, and ensuring that the required infrastructure meets ongoing needs.

As the project moves forward, the goal is to get more residents, especially young people, involved in the process.