A recent survey found that Idaho Falls residents are seeing their lives change as a result of growth, from pricier housing to cramped public spaces. And many residents think more could be done to shape growth.

One-third of surveyed residents said “the character and feel” of the city “are in jeopardy due to rapid growth.”

“We are not expanding to accommodate growth,” said one respondent to the survey, according to a report summarizing the results released this week by the City of Idaho Falls. “There are very few things to do in this town. We need to create inclusion and diversity and foster the ideas to bring more people here to help growth.”

Featuring responses from 670 people, the survey had a 5% margin of error, meaning that the true opinion of Idaho Falls residents could sway five percentage points. The survey cautions that results could vary more for non-white residents, for households that have less than a $50,000 annual income and for people with only a high school education or less.

“We are really grateful for the huge turnout and response both for the survey and the meetings. Staff gained valuable insights at both a citywide and localized, neighborhood level,” Community Development Services Department Director Brad Cramer said in a news release. “We committed to share the data we received from the survey, and we want everyone to have the chance to review the results we’ve received as we prepare for future outreach later this summer.”

Attitudes toward growth were mixed, ranging from those who saw growth as providing the potential to “ultimately enhance the quality of life in Idaho Falls” and people who characterized growth as encroaching on their lives, the report found.

Providing more public outdoor spaces drew support from most residents, with 59% supporting a greenbelt extension; 58% supporting improvements to healthy outdoor activities; 56% supporting improvements for family-oriented outdoor activities; and 56% supporting more green spaces in the city.

Transportation was also top of mind for residents. Routes for biking and walking that are safer, more convenient and cleaner were some of the top choices listed when residents were asked what could help increase the prevalence of alternative transportation methods.

“Idaho Falls is a great place to live. I chose to return here after being raised here and then moving away for college,” one surveyed resident said. “We need to learn from other small/medium cities and avoid foreseeable mistakes. This includes investing in public transit, prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists, and diversifying our neighborhoods.”

Several factors are keeping people out of Idaho Falls’ housing market. The report found that the cost and shortage of housing, on average, were the two biggest barriers, but lack of jobs, diverse housing types and desirable neighborhoods also played a role.

“Owning a home in Idaho Falls is a dream many residents see as increasingly elusive,” the report said. “... Residents of Idaho Falls are extremely concerned about the rising cost of housing — not only for themselves, but for their children and friends.”

The survey, part of an initiative called Imagine IF that is hoping to guide growth in Idaho Falls, surveyed residents from across Idaho Falls. The survey also split up opinions into five areas of the city. To read the full report and more information about Imagine IF, visit bit.ly/ImagineIFmain.

Five meetings with community members were held this spring. More meetings will be scheduled for this summer and fall, according to a news release.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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