TWIN FALLS — Look out from the deck and find a gently rolling stream in your backyard. Beyond it, cattle graze peacefully on a rocky hillside.
This is what Gerald Martens and Gary Storrer envisioned when they dreamed of offering Twin Falls a new kind of housing development. The two had been planning for 14 years to develop The Preserve with new homes just south of the newest section of the Canyon Rim Trail.
But on Feb. 19, Storrer died of cancer.
“Unfortunately, Gary never got to see his dream,” Martens said. “His dream’s been passed along to his family.”
The Preserve development off of Eastland Drive North and Pole Line Road is nearly ready for the first phase of housing. On Tuesday, trucks hauled loads of dirt in from the site of a future Olive Garden down the road. With site work underway, subdivision plans were still being reviewed.
Martens and Storrer’s project is one of several new developments that’s come before the city in recent weeks. Zoning and Development Manager Renee Carraway-Johnson said she’s being inundated with applications for projects that were planned out years ago but only now, after a couple years of steady growth, are getting picked up again.
“There’s an increase in demand for houses,” she said. “The industrial businesses are coming in, which is creating more need.”
People are looking for housing all over town. Here are five upcoming housing and multifamily developments you may want to watch for in the coming months:
The 370 acres of “The Preserve” on the north end of Eastland Drive have historically been used for grazing. The housing development will probably be built out over the next 20 years with about 600 homes, Martens said.
On Tuesday evening, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a preliminary plot for the first 53 homes at “The Springs at The Preserve” subdivision.
Martens is the developer of this phase. As such, he will construct a portion of Cheney Drive east of Eastland Drive North. Eventually, that road will connect to Hankins Road.
The Springs at The Preserve subdivision borders a natural spring to the east, and a few of the homes will also border the Canyon Rim Trail to the north. The nearby hilly area, however, will continue to be used as grazing pasture for cattle.
“What we’re selling here is open space behind the homes,” Martens said. “Much of that land will be perpetual open space with clusters of housing.”
Martens and the Storrer family had hired a San Francisco company to help map out the land like similar developments in the Treasure Valley. Rocky outcroppings that aren’t suitable for development will be used as a buffer between home sites and aesthetic features. And homeowners won’t be allowed to obscure the view of the stream with fences.
On the south side of the future boulevard-style Cheney Drive, a protected wetlands area will be enhanced and preserved for wildlife.
“(Gary) bought this to make a unique, exclusive development,” Martens said. “It’ll be the first of its kind for Twin Falls.”
At a public hearing Tuesday, neighboring residents expressed concerns about population density and flooding in the area. Martens assured that he would improve the streambeds and wetlands area to help retain water during storms.
“We’re going to do everything we can to enhance the springs,” he said.
Other amenities on the development include a path along Eastland Drive to a future trailhead park, plus a community center for residents.
Just south of the South Hills Middle School, the 117-acre Sundance Subdivision had been planned 10 years ago. But around 2008, it, and many similar developments, were put on hold, Carraway-Johnson said.
“The economy slowed down, and the development slowed down,” Martens said.
Martens’ partnership group bought the land and recently got the layout approved for the first phase of 54 homes. He intends to begin work this spring and summer.
“It’s designed for affordable housing,” he said.
Martens will build sidewalk at 3600 North all the way to Harrison Street, though this wasn’t required for the first phase.
“I’ve committed to get that done before school this fall,” he said.
The City Council on March 12 approved a zoning request from Thad Farnham regarding his future multi-use development, Addison Springs, at the northeast corner of Addison Avenue East and Carriage Lane North.
The plans for this development show a storage facility and commercial buildings on the south part of the property, with fourplexes and eightplexes on the north. The rental properties could also have a dog park and a clubhouse with a workout area.
Farnham intends to move forward with residential development as quickly as possible over the next two years. Commercial development will be driven by market demand, said Scott Allen with JUB Engineers Inc.
Adjacent to Addison Springs, another developer wants to bring more multifamily housing along Addison Avenue. Dave Scaggs with Summit Development hopes to build fourplexes totaling around 100 units, Carraway-Johnson said.
“It’ll be an asset to the community, I think,” she said.
Scaggs, of Boise, has already been building fourplexes on the north side of town on Harrison Street.
This development was originally planned in the late ‘90s, Carraway-Johnson said, but only some residential and apartments were developed.
Chris Jones has plans to turn a 1.5-acre lot into a small multifamily complex at 1700 Third Avenue East, between Locust and Madrona streets. The plan is to have five duplex lots — four, if the existing house is kept on the property.
This is another infill project that has been in the city’s files for a couple of years, Carraway-Johnson said.
BOISE — A federal judge ruled that the U.S. government illegally quarantined some Idaho potato fields infested with a microscopic pest that could threaten the state’s $1.2 billion potato industry, but he left the restrictions in place.
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge said recently that lifting the rules could lead to quarantines across a state that produces a third of the nation’s potatoes and is a major global supplier. It would likely “have significant immediate and long-term consequences to both the state of Idaho as well as the United States as a whole,” he wrote.
The judge decided that the federal government rolled out the quarantine and other restrictions without sufficient public input. Lodge’s order, which came in a 2015 lawsuit from farmers, makes the rules temporary until U.S. officials redo the process.
“I’m looking for an improved result,” said Bill Myers, an attorney representing the farmers. He declined to say whether that meant removing the quarantines.
“I think first we need to find out what the proper procedures are and what is the science they are going to use to support future decisions,” Myers said.
The U.S. Justice Department, which represents federal agencies in lawsuits, declined to comment Tuesday.
The discovery of the pale cyst nematode in 2006 was the pest’s first appearance in the United States. Federal officials responded with quarantines and treatment of infected fields as well as special regulations for some associated fields. Nematodes feed on potato roots and can reduce crop production by 80 percent.
When the pests were discovered, Canada, Mexico and Korea would not accept Idaho potatoes, and Japan banned all U.S. potatoes. The countries ultimately lifted their bans, the latest coming late last year when Japan opened its market again.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in an email Tuesday that about 8,200 acres of fields are being regulated because of the pest in southeastern Idaho. In 2017, the state had about 310,000 acres growing potatoes that produced about 13 billion pounds.
Lodge wrote that it was bad to violate laws on public input to get the quarantines in place, but “the court finds the seriousness of those procedural interests are outweighed by the disruptive consequences that will flow” from ending the restrictions.
It’s not clear how long it will take to go through the public process that could revamp rules on infected fields. Myers, attorney for the farmers, said he was anticipating it could be years.
“Until they go through the process and do it right, we won’t know how things are going to change,” he said.
Meanwhile, the federal government is battling the pest, announcing last week that Idaho will receive $800,000 for eradication efforts.
TWIN FALLS — Idaho labor analysts are examining unemployment figures across the state and asking themselves, can it get any lower?
“With continued job growth, it’s possible,” said Jan Roeser, regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor.
The department recently released Idaho counties’ unemployment rates for January and February, months when there’s typically fewer jobs along with the colder weather. But this year, south-central Idaho reported low unemployment rates of 2.8 percent in January and 2.5 percent in February.
“The bottom line is, people are working more now than they normally would,” Roeser said. “We have reached a new normal.”
Statewide, Idaho’s unemployment was reported at 3 percent for both months. Twin Falls County’s unemployment of 2.5 percent in February was the lowest the county has had for that month since 2008.
The number of people filing for unemployment has dropped off in the eight-county region, Roeser said, falling to 2,540 out of a labor force of 101,073. However, as unemployment rates become lower, applicants receive fewer weeks of compensation because “they don’t really need it.”
“We have a lot of expansions in the region, so the outlook is continued job growth and continued chipping away at those few unemployed we had,” Roeser said.
Here’s a breakdown of unemployment rates over the past two months in the region:
January: 2.5 percent
February: 2.5 percent
January: 3 percent
February: 2.2 percent
January: 2.5 percent
February: 2.2 percent
January: 2.7 percent
February: 2.3 percent
January: 2.8 percent
February: 2.7 percent
January: 3.4 percent
February: 3.5 percent
January: 2.7 percent
February: 2.6 percent
January: 2.9 percent
February: 2.5 percent