Brainstorming: Baxter City Council offers thoughts on future plans
BAXTER—A penny for your thoughts—or, in the case of Baxter City Council, a Saturday morning spent envisioning a future for Baxter.
Prior to the weekend retreat Saturday, March 9, Baxter city council members were encouraged to bring a number of proposals or ideas for the council to consider as they map out the community's future going forward.
Below are some tidbit thoughts from Mayor Darrel Olson, as well as council members Connie Lyscio, Zach Tabatt and Todd Holman. Council member Mark Cross was unable to attend the final minutes of the retreat, when this session took place.
• Citing fond family experiences on the former Pine Meadows Golf Course in years past, Lyscio said the city could look into establishing a golf course of its own. While being safe, affordable and potentially pet friendly, a golf course could be a community activity that appeals to residents—from young children to elderly residents—while providing a source of enrichment and revenue for the city.
• Promoting more affordable housing—particularly, Lyscio said, in the form of housing that would foster more home ownership in the city of Baxter.
• After speaking at various points of Saturday's retreat on the apparent disparity—from his perspective—between residents' opinion that the city of Baxter has high tax rates, and figures to the contrary, Tabatt said the city should look into initiating a study to determine what the city is getting in returns on investments from its tax load. Tabatt said the city could determine which properties are offering the most economic benefit to Baxter, so the council could use this information to set tax policy in the future that maximizes productive growth.
• In terms of downtown development, Tabatt said one potential goal would be to establish a mixed-use district—complete with eating or drinking establishments, businesses, apartments and others—in a kind of cloistered commercial compound. Restructuring through incentives and zoning could foster a collection of buildings with different uses at different levels.
• Citing the unpleasant smell of seized marijuana evident in the police department's entranceway, Tabatt said it's high time for expansions and restructuring of the Baxter Police Department and Baxter City Hall to better accommodate law enforcement needs. City Administrator Brad Chapulis noted, if the city is going to hire more police officers, it has to look at expanded facilities to accommodate them.
• Noting the public isn't well-informed enough to appreciate the benefits of living in Baxter, Tabatt said there needs to be a re-evaluation and active effort to communicate how the city is run and what resources are available to residents.
• In addition to Tabatt's comments on the police department, Holman said the city needs to look a new fire service substation to better serve Baxter residents.
• Citing a desire to better understand the fiscal forecast and capital plans for the city of Baxter, Holman said the city should do its due diligence and establish a five-year operational plan so it's positioned well for future developments.
• In line with that, Holman said the city should look into establishing a comprehensive transportation plan—a la, similar initiatives pushed at the county level, which Holman said he'd like to tap into. Instigating a cooperative plan with neighboring communities and the county in the next two to five years would be optimal, Holman said.
• Holman also said the city should look into a comprehensive plan retool—transportation, utilities, land use—to better position the city for the future.
• Olson said the city has more than 400 acres of relatively undeveloped land on its southwest corner—a direction, he's noted in the past, which represents the preponderance of Baxter's growth in the future. He said it would be advisable to keep that area in mind and consider proactive and comprehensive ways for the city to spread into it as the years come.
• Whether in visits to service clubs, governing bodies or economic development entities around the area, Olson echoed Tabatt and said it would be wise to communicate Baxter's potential and how the city operates better to uninformed people in the area. He cited the relationship between levy taxes, which are set by the council, and property taxes, which are determined by market value, as a key distinction to inform residents about.
• In addition, Olson said staff and council members must be mindful of the city's direction in a period of change—ranging from business growth, population increases, land acquisitions and the addition of new public school facilities—that the city's reputation is always upheld, so as to foster more growth in the future.