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McLean: Housing still priority for Murgoitio site after land swap falls through

An appraisal on the Murgoitio site revealed it's worth much more than a previous valuation, and apparently worth more than the foothills property.

BOISE, Idaho — After a land swap with a developer fell through Monday, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean signaled that she still intends to pursue housing on a 160-acre property in Southwest Boise that was targeted as a regional park for decades. 

"As we've said all along, housing is our priority," McLean said during a City Council work session Tuesday while discussion next steps for the publicly owned land. "We’re looking at all the tools that we have for the benefits of Boise residents. I want be clear in that 'next steps' isn't running to auction. There seems to be a misunderstanding that's the next step."

On Monday, McLean announced the city would no longer pursue a land swap with developer Harris Ranch in exchange for property in the foothills. An appraisal on the Murgoitio site revealed it's worth much more than a previous valuation, and apparently worth more than the foothills property. Per state law, properties must be of similar value to be traded by a municipality. 

A 2020 appraisal valued the land at less than $8 million.

As part of the effort to trade the property, the city sought two new broker appraisals on the Murgoitio site. The first estimated it's worth up to $38 million, or $200,000 to $240,000 per acre. The new valuation assumes the Ada County property will be annexed into the city of Boise and that it will host a residential subdivision with 8 units per acre, rather than a park, which would be worth less. 

A second appraisal is expected to be completed early next week, said Parks Superintendent Jennifer Tomlinson.              

Many Southwest Boise residents opposed the land swap and remain hopeful that the property will become a park

Without naming specifics, council members on Tuesday discussed what the options are for the site moving forward. 

Tomlinson told the Idaho Press last week that the city does not intend "at this time" to develop the property into a regional park as was planned for decades. 

Next month, the city's Planning and Zoning Commission will consider a request to annex the property and change its land use designation from "open space" to "compact."

According to the city's development code, in "compact" designations "(detached) single-family homes are predominant but a variety of housing types including duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, apartments and condominiums could be allowed." 

Tomlinson noted that this designation would not preclude open space, but rather it allows for residential development.

Next month's meeting, planned for Aug. 7, will be a public hearing, meaning residents and neighborhood association leaders can testify on the annexation and land use designation change. 

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