BOISE, Idaho — Editor's Note: This article was originally published by the Idaho Press.
Boise’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday recommended the City Council approve annexations of two properties near the Murgoitio Park site. Commissioners were critical of city staff for its handling of the annexation process, which previously included plans to annex the 160-acre park site and drew much public backlash.
The city plans to annex two properties near West Victory and South Cole roads. Together, the parcels total more than 130 acres. About 4 acres is currently owned by the Boise Airport and would be designated for industrial use. The remaining 128 acres is owned by the Boise School District, which currently plans to sell at least 15 acres to a developer.
After more than an hour of public testimony, primarily in opposition to the plans, commissioners voted unanimously to recommend City Council members approve the annexations. Conditions were added, however. Commissioners recommended that the application be rewritten to clarify the property owners and recommend there be adequate time before a future hearing for the public to review the application.
“My substantive concern is with the procedure that has caused confusion and obvious upset,” said Commissioner Milt Gillespie. “I understand why that’s happened…There’s no intent to pull a fast one here. This is just a really hard process, and it’s extremely complicated, and things didn’t happen in the optimal way.”
The current request for the school district and airport property previously included an annexation request for the Murgoitio site, a large area of farmland once targeted for a regional park that the city recently considered trading to a developer. While the city backed-off the deal last month, many Southwest Boise residents — who continue to advocate for the park — remain skeptical of other annexation plans in the area.
Kathy Corless, president of the South Cole Neighborhood Association, said her organization disagrees with the 15-acre school property’s planned mixed-use designation, which would allow for a greater housing density than the surrounding area. Additionally, Corless said, and others testifying agreed, that Southwest Boise’s current groundwater supply cannot support more development.
Amid rapid population growth and a historic drought, residents of both south Ada County and Canyon County have seen their wells run dry this summer.
Boise’s Deputy Planning Director Cody Riddle said Suez, Boise’s primary water utility, which would provide water to any future homes on the school site, confirmed there is adequate water to serve a future subdivision.
Other public testimony focused on the annexation process. Vicky McIntyre was critical of a June neighborhood meeting that more than 500 people attended.
“It really wasn’t a public hearing, in my opinion,” she said. “It wasn’t asking for input, it was just asking for questions.”
Commissioner Bob Schafer said, “I don’t disagree that the city has sort of made a mess of this process,” but, he noted, there will be more applications, and public hearings, for development in the future, before anything is built on the sites.
Several commissioners agreed that the properties are in an appropriate area for annexation; they abut city limits to the north.
Commissioner Janella Finfrock said neighbors’ concerns should be addressed, and moving forward annexation requests for multiple parcels should be submitted separately, so the public has an opportunity to review them individually.
Ryan Suppe is the Boise City Hall and Treasure Valley business reporter for the Idaho Press. Contact him at 208-344-2055 (ext. 3038). Follow him on Twitter @salsuppe.
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