When a very attractive commercial development opportunity came along for Hitt Road, the dividing line between Idaho Falls and adjacent Ammon, it could have been a source of fractious debate between the two cities and a protracted planning nightmare. Instead, Hitt Road development has been a poster child for how municipalities work together for the benefit of residents in both.
Idaho Falls and Ammon together are a commercial and cultural hub for southeast Idaho. Both are proud of their traditional values, family-friendly neighborhoods and outstanding quality of life. Growth has brought both benefits and pressures on both communities. Once considered by many a bedroom community of Idaho Falls, Ammon has seen particularly dramatic residential and commercial growth in recent years, emerging as a distinct community.
“We are becoming our own entity – coming into our own, growing up,” says Ammon Mayor Dana Kirkham. “As we develop, we are branding ourselves, figuring out who we are.”
Hitt Road Project
When the two cities were presented with the prospect of a new Cabela’s and other big-box retail along Hitt Road in 2014, time was of the essence. Though the necessary $3.5 million street improvement might have ordinarily taken years to accomplish, especially given a history of disagreements between the cities over Hitt Road, by working in concert, Ammon and Idaho Falls were able to pull the project together in a matter of months.
“Mayor Kirkham and I worked hard on letting those tensions go away and creating cooperation between communities,” says Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “We figure if something is good for Idaho Falls, Ammon will benefit, and if things are good for Ammon, Idaho Falls will benefit. We have worked hard to let Hitt Road become the thing that connects us, not divides us.”
That spirit of cooperation will continue as additional work is done on Hitt Road, and has manifested itself in other areas as well. Mayors Kirkham and Casper meet frequently to discuss areas of interest. The city councils communicate with each other. Both support new regional economic development efforts and joint planning between the cities and Bonneville County.
Other Areas of Cooperation
The two cities work together in non-governmental areas as well, expanding the Mayor’s Scholarship program, presenting “state of the cities” addresses jointly at an annual chamber-sponsored February event and participating in Mayor’s Business Day, also sponsored by the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce.
“Everybody has a natural sense of territory for their jurisdiction, but we’re both committed to a greater good,” Kirkham says. “The average person doesn’t know where Idaho Falls begins and Ammon ends. We have an obligation to look out for all 100,000 citizens in our community, not just for our own jurisdiction.”
Casper shares that point of view.
“Dana and I share a governance philosophy – we stress being positive in building our communities, future-oriented,” she says. “We both believe in the importance of creating good infrastructure to foster development. And we try to be good partners that way.”