As Jefferson County continues to grow and change, county planning and zoning officials are trying to meet those changes head on with an updated comprehensive plan.
County commissioners reviewed and recommended changes to the updated plan Jan. 6, and Planning and Zoning Administrator Kevin Hathaway said the plan could be finalized before the end of January.
The comprehensive plan is the guiding document for building and development within the county. Unlike planning and zoning ordinances, which provide specific requirements, the comprehensive plan is not a mandate for builders and developers, but will be considered when department employees and planning and zoning commissioners consider developments.
Hathaway said comprehensive plans, or “comp plans” serve as a vision for the future in terms of planning.
“The comp plan is to say, ‘Okay, here’s what we want to do: We want to have goals and we want to have ways to achieve those goals,’ and that’s what the comp plan is,” Hathaway said.
Hathaway said most of the goals the county had in 2005 will remain the same, though how the county achieves those goals could change because of growth. He said most updates to the plan address growth and subdivision development; much of it remains the same or similar to the 2005 plan.
“Overall, we streamlined it,” Hathaway said. “We haven’t necessarily changed as much as we have honed the process.”
County commissioners’ recommendations included adding more references to studies and to Idaho Code, as well as changing the major employers on the updated plan. The plan listed health care as overtaking agriculture as the top employer, with retail second and agriculture third, but Commissioner Scott Hancock said that was not the case.
“We’re the ninth largest ag producer in the state of Idaho … it’s still an ag county,” Hancock said.
Hathaway said Jan. 9 agriculture is the largest employer in the county and said that would be reflected in the final plan.
Commissioner Shayne Young said he also wanted more details on the history and vision of the county. Hancock said transportation should also be a major consideration.
Hancock said part of the plan was also to develop a regional airport.
"No way, take that one out ... it's not our goal, we're not going to compete with Idaho Falls, there's just no way," Hancock said.
He said he also saw a master greenway plan included in the comprehensive plan, and said he had not heard of that before. Commissioner Roger Clark said they had tried to do it before, but said the extensive private property along the levy halted the plans.
"There's little strips of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land along it, but most of it is privately owned," Clark said.
On Jan. 9, Hathaway said it is not the purpose of a comprehensive plan to be specific in terms of installing a greenway or a park, but said the plan could indicate the county would pursue recreational opportunities.
Hathaway said right now is “an exciting time for Jefferson County” and said it is important for county planning and zoning employees to be proactive in planning for development and the economy as growth continues.
“It’s a very desirable place to live now, for a lot of different reasons,” Hathaway said. “We want to continue to support the quality of life.”