Battle between community and Star City Council leads to recall vote

In Star, the mayor and a City Council Member will be on the ballot this November in a recall election. The group Concerned Citizens of Star says the two have not represented the voice of the people and have failed them.

In Star, the mayor and a City Council member will be on the ballot this November in a recall election. The group “Concerned Citizens of Star” says the two have not represented the voice of the people and have failed them.

“They have lost, they have lost that they serve the people,” Gary Smith, a spokesman for Concerned Citizens of Star, said.

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More than 700 signatures for a recall of Mayor Chad Bell and 693 signatures to recall Councilman Kevin Nielson, all agreeing with Smith and the group.

The main concern is a nearly 200-unit apartment complex being built on the corner of Highway 44 and Highway 16.

“The mayor, Councilman Nielson seem to be the two that are pushing it. The others tend to follow, pushing this high-density build develop any place you want,” Smith said. “We don't want out-of-control growth. We want managed growth.”

Citizens worry the city, which has one main thoroughfare, can’t handle the increase in traffic from the new apartment complex.

“Let’s say there's 200 units in there. Double that by cars of people going to work, that's 400 cars entering highway 44 right before highway 16, right before a light. It's going to create major gridlock,” Smith said.

Star Mayor Chad Bell says the land is on private property and the proposed multi-purpose development meets all the city codes and ordinances.

“When he came to us with that, all the things that he brought to us did comply with our plan and with our ordinances. Matter of fact we entered into a development agreement with the applicant and asked him to go above and beyond, which he did,” Mayor Bell said.

Councilman Nielson agrees.

“The application complied in every detail with the city’s comprehensive plan, which designated that area as a mixed use zone. Star’s zoning ordinance for mixed use allows commercial and high-density residential developments, among others. “

Mayor Bell also tellis KTVB that the City Council did meet with the Idaho Transportation Department and the Ada County Highway District, which both said the roads could handle the increase in volume.

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“The professionals, the ITD, the ACHD entities have told us that there is no problem with this particular project,” Mayor Bell said.

“ACHD said that while there will be some people who choose to cut through it won’t be enough to impact the capacity of Wildbranch,” Nielson said.

Both Mayor Bell and Councilman Nielson said with both ITD and ACHD telling them the city’s infrastructure could handle the increase in traffic and the developer meeting all the city’s criteria, the council’s hands were tied.

“As long as they comply with your ordinances and the plan, you have to have a legal reason to tell a property owner 'No you can't do that with your property,” Mayor Bell said. “Sometimes those decisions are very hard and sometimes they're not very popular, but we have to make the right legal decision."

“A fraction of the people of Star did not want us to approve the S. Crystal Springs rezone application. These people provided no evidence in the public hearing that would support a denial of the application,” Nielson said.

“The will of the people is embodied in Star City Code, Idaho State Law and Star’s formally adopted Comprehensive plan," Nielson said.. "While it's normal that not everyone agrees with the laws of the land, the general will of the people is that elected officials follow the laws and adopted plans for growth.”

Voters will get a chance to decide both Mayor Bell and Councilman Nielson’s fate in this upcoming November election. The Ada County Elections Office tells KTVB because it’s a recall, it will need to be a simple majority and it must be more votes than what Mayor Bell and Councilman Nielson received when they were voted into office.