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Murgoitio site is out of annexation plan, but Boise not addressing possible park, either

Tuesday, Mayor Lauren McLean apologized for the process leading up to a recent Planning & Zoning meeting.
Credit: Brian Myrick / Idaho Press
A sign in support of saving the Murgoitio Park open space, stands on property along South Cole Road north of the New York Canal June 21.

BOISE, Idaho — The City of Boise may annex two parcels of land near West Victory and South Cole roads, but, Mayor Lauren McLean sought to make abundantly clear Tuesday, those annexation plans no longer include another parcel in that area -- the 160 acres once envisioned as the site of Murgoitio Park.

While the decision to not annex the Murgoitio site puts any plans to develop housing there on ice, there also are no immediate plans to build a park there.

The Boise Planning and Zoning Commission on August 7 recommended unanimously that the Boise City Council annex land totaling 130 acres. About four acres is owned by the Boise Airport, and would be zoned for industrial use. The Boise School District owns the rest, and plans to sell at least 15 acres to a developer. That land, as well as the Murgoitio parcel, are located just outside current city limits, in the Southwest Ada County Alliance.

During the Boise City Council's afternoon work session Tuesday, McLean talked about some of the confusion surrounding the August 7 P&Z meeting, starting with her decision to pull annexation off the agenda -- an item that still listed on the agenda because meeting notices had already gone out before the mayor pulled it.

"I did that because I wanted there to be clarity for the community, clarity for the commission, and frankly, I wanted the school district to be able to discuss the merits of the application to annex for the land that they had sold," McLean said. "That meeting wasn't our best day, and I know that we can do better. I apologize for that. Timing-wise, I wish that it could have been set up in a way that was more clear for the commission, and that the commission did not have to have the experience that they had that evening."

McLean also reiterated, "we have no intention of annexing the Murgoitio property at this time."

The possibility of the Murgoitio land being developed for housing rather than a park stirred controversy earlier this summer as the city looked into a possible land swap with the Harris family, in which the city would receive property in the foothills and, instead of becoming a large city park, the Murgoitio land would be developed by Harris, with housing on most of it.

McLean said after taking a closer look at the land swap, the city determined it "didn't pencil" financially.

"We have other priorities that we're in the midst of. We did the due diligence that we said up front that we would do, and that didn't pan out, and we pulled it from annexation," McLean said. 

The mayor said Boise needs open space as well as housing.

Following a presentation by chief of staff Courtney Washburn at Tuesday's work session, City Council President Elaine Clegg said there's still a "large expectation in the community that there's going to be a very large park."

Clegg said a park needs to remain in the conversation about the parcel, even though such a project may not be feasible any time soon.

"As I understand our finances and as I understand the property tax that we are collecting in this region, and the impact fees that we are collecting in this region, there simply isn't enough to finance the large-scale park that was originally part of what was being talked about on this parcel," Clegg said. "I just wonder about how we're going to approach the conversation, if we're still going to have a park here, what should it look like? How big should it be?" 

Washburn replied, "I do believe your characterization is correct: the city does not have the resources to address the issue any time soon."

"It feels like, to me at least, this is only the beginning of the conversation we're going to continue to have around annexation more generally in the Southwest Ada County Alliance," said council member Holli Woodings, who then asked Washburn about a timeline for such a conversation.

"I think what we'd like to do is next week at work session, we're taking a deep dive into the housing needs associated with the city," Washburn said. "Part of that conversation will involve pieces that the city owns that might be suitable for housing considerations to try to meet those community needs.

"Once we do that, we will assess where we are after that conversation, but I don't think anything will move forward with regards to this before an extensive community conversation is held, and we'll bring those plans before you before launching anything."

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