Guest Opinions

Is Idaho development following California’s overgrown path?

Idaho vs. California: What’s the difference?

A suspicion of newcomers, especially Californians, is as common in Idaho as fry sauce and sagebrush. But are we really so different? Here's what Idaho Statesman readers had to say.
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A suspicion of newcomers, especially Californians, is as common in Idaho as fry sauce and sagebrush. But are we really so different? Here's what Idaho Statesman readers had to say.

I have been in Idaho for seven years. During this time I have learned that people from my native state of California are not universally loved and embraced. But let’s face it: More and more Californians are making their way – fleeing, as it were – to Idaho.

One type of Californian which I truly hope that Idahoans will be very wary of is the land developer. Land developers sing a siren song of increased tax base and improved land usage, and leave in their wake acre upon acre of destroyed farmland, traffic gridlock, compact living space, and stressed infrastructures and schools. Believe me, when they are finally through, there will not be an inch of open land left in Southern Idaho. Think locusts.

Two favorite refrains with which to identify typical developer mentality are “progress” and “people have to have somewhere to live.” If you hear your friends or acquaintances uttering these bromides, please take a minute to teach them the ugly facts of overdevelopment. Remember, many developers have never seen farmland, or even an empty lot, that they did not covet. The Treasure Valley will be unrecognizable to native Idahoans within the next 20 years if developers, Californian or not, have their way. And, overall, developers are highly aggressive, highly persuasive people who prey quite successfully on local officials’ naivete and greed.

development
New homes going up in Meridian in 2015. Katherine Jones Idaho Statesman file

Idahoans, native or not, please look all around you in the towns of Kuna, Nampa, Meridian. See all of the leapfrog development that has already taken place. Agricultural best practices are usually based on contiguous lands, and the developers already are planning to fill in the empty spaces between existing tracts.

As a native Californian, I want to warn you that beginning after World War II, overdevelopment completely transformed and destroyed my home state. Developers carried out this transformation gleefully, with the full approval of local and state officials. They simply could not build fast enough. They only stop when no land is left.

As I write, land developers are in the process of destroying the agricultural base of the San Joaquin Valley, the central valley of California, which for years was known as the breadbasket of the world. Californians are currently importing many of their vegetables and fruits from Mexico, while their prime farmlands are being destroyed.

I hate to have arrived in Idaho and see the same horrible process here that I thought I had left behind in California. I am not going to pick up and move again. But I feel very uneasy about the many signs I see around me of a potential land-use fiasco here in Idaho like the one that destroyed California.

Please be on your guard, Idahoans. The camel’s nose is already under the tent.

Anne Hurst, of Nampa, is a retired teacher who moved to Idaho seven years ago to try her hand at (very small-scale) farming.

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