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Idaho's new identity as the fastest-growing state in the country is putting a strain on its rustic character: farmland is disappearing, home prices continue to rise while wages struggle to keep up. In this series, we explore those growing pains.

Our Changing Idaho: How Growth In Boise (And Beyond) Impacts You

Tom Michael
Boise State Public Radio
An aerial shot of Meridian shows a rapidly changing landscape.

This spring, we asked you to share stories about how Idaho’s rapid growth is changing your life. Since then we’ve heard from dozens of you over social media, email, voicemail and through our website. We received memories about dairy farms on Federal Way in Boise, concerns about sprawl in Ada County, excitement about newcomers with new ideas and anxiety about a loss of beloved places.

We read each and every one of these questions and stories, and they informed our reporting in “Our Changing Idaho.” (One of you even became a main character in a feature.) Below you’ll find a sample of submissions edited for length and clarity. Thanks for contributing to this series – we couldn’t do it without you. Please keep the conversation going in the comments below.

Story from Scott: “In 1967 I was five years old and we moved to Boise, which was my father's home. My first view of Boise came as we were leaving the interstate onto Federal Way. It was of the Triangle Young Dairy and a sea of dairy cattle. Boise has grown three-fold since I came here as a child. But the real story is the growth in Ada County, which has exceeded the rate of growth of Boise. Agriculture in Ada County is half of what it was in 1940 and remains in decline. Of similar note, the same (but on a much larger scale) may be said of Los Angeles County, which in 1940 generated more agricultural activity than the State of Iowa and was the most productive agricultural county in the United States. Today, people are surprised to learn of the agricultural past of Los Angeles County. Perhaps some would be surprised to learn that farms, not housing developments, once defined the drive from Boise to Nampa. We said goodbye to The Royal and said hello to restaurants from Iraq, India and Nepal. We are a much more interesting and, in my opinion, a better community over the intervening years. But today when a visitor takes the Federal Way exit as they enter our city, they will not see a sea of dairy cattle but Micron's chip factory. And so it goes.”

Story from Michelle: “My husband and I just had our rent raised $225 per month. We are moving to a smaller place just so we can pay our bills. We had to put a deposit down without looking at the place because there were 12 other people in line behind us an hour after it was posted. You have to literally refresh Craigslist or the rental website and call as soon as a new ad is listed. It’s just ridiculous. What’s worse is our wages are not budging.”

Comment by Anonymous: “Boise is growing fast and now is the time to start planning for more people and building for growth, not trying to stay stuck in old ways. We are already facing a housing crisis; taller buildings with living spaces and work spaces are the way to go. It's sad to see the city fighting against growth, which I think is personally great. You get more culture, more entertainment, more local shops and restaurants. Why are people fighting this? Perhaps because I am young I am not stuck in the way that things used to be or maybe because I did not grow up here. I love seeing Boise expand and watching new things come to town; it's fun and exciting and gives me plenty of reasons to stay. After all isn't that what we want as a city? A place where people and businesses WANT to stay?”

Comment from Arthur: “We are ‘first generation’ farmers that would love to expand, but with ridiculous land prices due to the influx of people, that isn’t going to happen. What impact is this going to have on the rest of the agricultural community, and those companies that rely on agriculture?”

Comment by Patrick: “I'm proud that early last year, Mayor Bieter declared Boise to be a welcoming city. This declaration was specifically in response to questions of refugees and immigrants from outside the country. I believe we should welcome new residents from anywhere, be they refugees from the war in Syria, or from high housing costs in California. A welcoming city that does not build housing for new arrivals is not welcoming at all. Reasonable people may disagree about the merits of any particular project. It is important that specific community concerns regarding traffic or infrastructure are addressed in a thoughtful way. However, when the underlying concerns are not specific for any particular project, but a general opposition to growth itself, we set ourselves on the path to repeat the mistakes of California where housing prices spiral up and up and vulnerable communities inevitably pay the price. Opposition to 'growth' is not opposition to vague and menacing impersonal forces; it is an exclusionary impulse to freeze the Treasure Valley in a time capsule, for the benefit of those who already own a home and to the detriment of those not so fortunate. If people want to join us in the Treasury Valley, we should welcome them. A truly welcoming city provides enough homes for those we wish to welcome.”

Comment by Dale: “Growth has almost always been seen as good, but it has a host of disadvantages. Even though tax revenues increase, this can't make up for increased traffic, traffic congestion, more crowded public places (including parks, campgrounds, and all public land), increased crime, increased demand on public utilities (often overwhelming utilities and requiring expensive upgrades), increased demand on natural resources, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that contributes to climate change (increased demand for electricity contributes to this, often generated by coal-fired plants).”

Story from Kris: “Today I cycled along Old Hill Road. It was peaceful. There were birds chattering and the smell of lilacs along the roadway. Also along the road are posters and flyers calling attention to the threat of development by out-of-state parties who have purchased parcels along this route in anticipation of high density and multifamily units being built. I have lived in Idaho since 1973, in the Treasure Valley for 40 years, and in Boise since 2002. Do I experience the change in a positive way? Well, not exactly. Some say that the influx of new people brings diversity and that this diversity will stimulate and encourage cultural growth. My experience of those moving here, based on several of my neighbors who have recently transplanted from California, is that the influx is people who are attracted to Idaho's conservative mentality and that their presence will only reinforce the norm. Perhaps there is an increase in downtown nightlife and some new restaurants; but where I live there is only an expansion of chain store outlets. Accommodating the influx of new residents in inevitable, but how we go about expansion is critical and what is done cannot be undone.”

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio

Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.