Garden City’s longtime mayor wants to stick to the tried and true if he’s reelected.
Mayor John Evans is running for his fifth term in office of the small Ada County city of roughly 12,000 residents. He said voters should look to his experience bringing fiscal stability to the city, navigating the pressures of growth, and improving funding for city amenities when they go to vote in November.
Evans touts record of stability
“There are things I haven’t finished,” Evans, 73, said about his run for another term. “I think we’re at a time because of the growth we’re experiencing, the challenges we’re seeing nationally with the divided country in many respects and still working our way through COVID pandemic that I think it’s in the city’s best interest that we maintain a steady, consistent leadership approach to how we’ve successfully dealt with all of those issues.”
Evans has been at the helm of Garden City since 2005. When he’s not running the city on a part-time basis, he is a real estate developer with a residential project in South Caldwell. He also has a background in utility installation and construction prior to jumping into development.
He said during his tenure the city slowed turnover rates in city staff, raised morale, and added more funding to public safety and the Garden City Library for residents. Evans also pointed to his work on mitigating flooding in the city, which has roughly three-quarters of its property in the flood place. Evans said a project to address the flooding with the Army Corps of Engineers is funded in the upcoming federal budget and he expects it to begin soon.
Evans, a Republican, was one of the vocal critics of the property tax reform bill that passed through the Idaho Legislature at the end of the 2021 session. He appeared at multiple public hearings on the legislation on behalf of Garden City and the Idaho Association of Cities to speak out against any policies, like HB 389, that would cap the amount of property taxes localities can take to compensate for new growth.
He said now that the cap is passed, Garden City will be facing challenges to pay for the growing demand for services.
“I understand those issues really well and I understand what it takes to serve our population and I think I’m best suited to continue to manage that,” he said.
Affordable housing challenges
For years, Garden City was home to more mobile home parks than anywhere else in Ada County and provided a refuge for low-income residents to find housing.
Evans said the removal of mobile home parks and loss of affordable housing is concerning as the community redevelops at high prices because it displaces essential workers and longtime community members. He said Garden City has been accommodating with its zoning by continuing to allow mixed-income neighborhoods with mobile homes and traditional homes, as well as approvals for NeighborWorks pocket developments for affordable homeownership opportunities and a city-approved low-income tax credit project that provided 64 housing units.
But, he said without any state assistance or incentives for affordable housing it is difficult to slow the redevelopment of the city’s low-income neighborhoods as land value increases.
“It is a concern and I think the challenge we have in our four square miles is available space to do anything other than try and preserve what you have, but you can’t preserve what you have at the expense of the private property rights of people who own the property and want to develop it,” Evans said. “It’s a bigger problem than Garden City. It’s a regional problem and I think we need to look to the state for some help.”
What about Expo Idaho?
The future of the Expo Idaho site, which is located in Garden City but is controlled by Ada County, is also a major priority for Evans.
He told BoiseDev he was involved in the interview process to give input on what the nearly 300-acre site should look like earlier this year and throughout 2020 as the county’s working group met to discuss options. Evans said he is hoping for a town center-style, mixed-use development on the site, as well as sports fields, a relocated Lady Bird Park closer to the Greenbelt and room for the Western Idaho Fair.
Evans said he was pleased with the number of public discussions about the site the Ada County Commissioners have been holding to plan the future project.
“I think there are some real opportunities there,” Evans said. “If changes are made, I think it will be done with a great deal of public input.”
BoiseDev will profile each candidate for Boise City Council, Garden City City Council and Meridian City Council as they formally file to run for office.