residents divided over growth issues
By Taylor Scott
May 2, 2006 | PROVIDENCE -- After
the close election between Mayor Randy Simmons and Clint
Thompson, the residents of Providence have been divided
on issues, particularly growth and land development.
For the past several months at City Council meetings,
public comment has been allowed. These 20-minute sessions,
which allow the residents of Providence to vocalize
opinions, have been filled with citizens commenting
about land use and development. As these plans become
increasingly actualized the public comment sessions
have been terminated, but the citizens have not let
this stop them from making their voices heard.
"There is a set of people who've organized based on
the last mayoral election who were supporting my opponent
and who are opposed to growth of any kind. There are
some others who are slow 'growthers' who get pulled
in a bit, but the core set of people are those who just
want to stop growth. They are well organized and well
funded," said Simmons.
"There are two people who have lot of money and they
are just willing to say I'm going to take my expendable
money and spend it on hiring attorneys," said Simmons.
"Their strategies range from lawsuits to actual intimidation
of the city council by sending their lawyer, to attempting
to do a citizen petition to oppose land use decisions."
Simmons said he was not trying to get in the way of
growth and whatever market forces that are operating
should continue, however, he was not looking to subsidize
growth in any way either
Simmons said he believes all city council members
excluding Kathy Baker are in favor of development in
After confirming this, Baker said it was because Providence
is "growing faster than other communities in the valley
and we're having a hard time keeping up with the infrastructure.
I'd like it to be slower." Baker had no comment when
asked whether she supported the mayor.
Skarlet Bankhead, city administrator, said the slow
growth and no growth residents are concerned mainly
about open space and the preservation of Providence's
character. The council's main concern is with defining
Providence's character and once that definition forms,
the council will plan so "people can still have their
homes and we can still have new growth, but that it
can be done in a way that minimizes sprawl and creates
areas of either publicly or privately owned open space,"
The next issue according to Bankhead is water availability.
Those in favor of slow growth and no growth don't believe
that the information the city has on the water supply
is correct, she said. They feel that their information
is more correct than the city's. "There are some people
that are worried that Providence may not have the source
Bankhead said the council is continually looking into
the infrastructure plans and Providence is still on
track according to the numbers.
"The issue of water is quite important and the issue
of more people moving into the city and preserving the
open look of the city and yet watching it fill up with
homes is difficult for some people to accept," Bankhead
said. "There definitely are concerns about the amount
of growth that we are experiencing. Most people will
say they aren't anti-growth, they just think it needs
to be managed differently than how we are doing it."
One thing agreed upon by most residents is that growth
Baker, who is in favor of a slower growth rate said,
"It is hard to have a viable city that is totally static;
things change. It is very hard to be economically feasible
if you don't have some change and some growth. I just
don't like to see it running away with everything."
Simmons said Providence is going to develop and there
is nothing that can be done to encourage or discourage
that. Simmons said people will no longer be able to
build buildings wildly out of character with the style
Bankhead said these issues are ongoing and long-term
but for now a balance needs to be found.