City Government

Eagle Snow Park Deal Still Has Opposition

Eagle City and Ada County have recently agreed on a deal which will get the county out of the equation on a proposed Winter Terrain Park on the eastern edge of Eagle. Ada Commishes previously balked at a deal presented by Eagle which would allow private operator Ryan Neptune a 20 year exclusive lease on the county-owned land which is leased to Eagle for a park. With ownership of about 35 acres at the Horseshoe Bend Road site and a 20 lease deal, he is ready to make more snow.

Neptune has a demonstration snow venue at Eagle Island State Park which is currently adrift with manmade snow. County Resident Joan Johnston lives near the Horseshoe Bend Road site and opposes the new venue. Her guest opinion is posted below and we offer equal space to any opposing views.

By Joan Johnston
There have been plenty of opinions, for and against the proposed snow terrain park at the Ada‐Eagle
Sports Complex. Let’s look at the issues that surround this proposal….
Eagle Snow
In the beginning, the lease agreement was the issue between Ada County and the City of Eagle. The lease agreement doesn’t allow for long term of 20+ years, exclusive use of facilities, land or parking lots.

Historically, the land was purchased to be a landfill buffer because at one point the land fill was to be filled towards the west. Ada County’s Comprehensive Plan indicates that the park land is not to be developed. However, despite this there’s been an accepted offer on 34.45 acres + 6 acres to include the
BMF track at $4,000 per acre. The Ada County Commissioners have made a difficult decision, but only one of the Commissioners considered the citizens concerns and issues into account. The other two sold out the Ada County residents by not taking at least the minimum appraised value of $5,500 which is leaving $51,675 on the table. The County is still cleaning up the Dynamis debacle and its financial drain of over $2 million that Commissioner Yzagguirre help to create. Why couldn’t we at least ask for what the land is worth?

The issue really isn’t about a snow terrain park; it’s about a for‐profit private business having exclusive use of land for 20 years plus 2 option periods of 10 years, parking lots, and public facilities to do business with no investment into the property. There will be lost property tax revenue by the County. Ryan Neptune should purchase the land himself instead of placing the financial burden onto the City of Eagle residents. So why shouldn’t all those folks that are for this for‐profit business having exclusivity on public land step up and help buy the land for Ryan Neptune. The Ada County residents have contributed by reducing the property value by $51,675. So far the City of Eagle has footed most of the bill for Ryan Neptune.

They’re planning on “spending $240,000 if this goes through” according to the Eagle Parks
and Recreation Director. Since the City of Eagle submitted the Design Review application on Ryan
Neptune’s behalf, one can wonder if they also paid for or waived the application fees. It’ll be
interesting to see how long it is before Eagle resident’s taxes are raised particularly after the intersection of Floating Feather and Old Horseshoe Bend Road has to be re‐aligned to make it safer and to accommodate the marked increase in traffic going through the intersection. Some of the traffic will no doubt be alleviated by flowing through the neighboring subdivision to avoid the intersection which
should make those residents really happy.

Ryan Neptune said in the Idaho Statesman on January 8th, 2014 that “in the first 5 days of ticketed use, the park had 3,100 visitors.” So now ACHD has traffic and attendance data that they can use when they consider what road improvements that will need to be made to handle the increase in traffic. But ACHD needs to also take into account that the proposed snow terrain park off of Old Horseshoe Bend Road will be a much larger in size.

This proposed snow terrain park might look good to those that haven’t attended the city council or
BOCC meetings, but the proposed snow terrain park will have its unintended consequences that will be
far more reaching than anybody realizes. The City of Eagle’s officials don’t care about the issues and
potential problems because they have their sights on the prize in the bottom of the cereal box. Well,
Eagle residents, you’re the proud owner of a regional park and all the expenses associated with it.
Better use it and enjoy it, but bring money to buy a ticket to use it and don’t park or step foot into
Ryan’s exclusive areas unless you do buy a ticket. And for everybody else, because it’s not in your back yard, so you’re going to get what you want, so be happy that you got what you’re entitled to at the expense to others.

Comments & Discussion

12 comments for “Eagle Snow Park Deal Still Has Opposition”

  1. shocked voter
    Jan 13, 2014, 9:53 am

    After the Dynamis mess and the Eagle City Hall episode, it seems our elected representatives would listen to those who have elected them instead of in your face type governing. I guess we will have to remember come election time. Our public lands should be left for use by the public and not for private business to develop for what ever they chose. This has a great potential to turn into another financial nightmare for the tax payers of Eagle.
    I will certainly remember at he next election.

  2. This is typical politicians. They take publicly owned land and buildings which taxpayers pay for and lease them to for profit business because they say it is a “proverbial “win-win” partnerships”. I believe we have heard this before.

    The Ada County Commissioners well maybe two of them sold out Ada County taxpayers once again, shocking! We all need to remember them come election day. When are Ada County residents going to wake up and vote them out. Yzaguirre has sold us down the river for years while taking home a very nice salary on our backs.

    I agree whole heartily with Joan, quit taking public land/ buildings and leasing them to for-profit business who will make hundreds of thousands of dollars while not paying property taxes and other expenses that a business would if they were on their own and not subsidized by us taxpayers.

    I say if the land is a buffer and not to be built on then it needs to stay that way. Sounds important to me that the land stays a protective buffer for the landfill.

  3. Public lands means public land! What don’t these people understand.

  4. Voter

    There is one problem with your comment. Do not get me wrong I agree with you but, no one will remember, no one really cares. If it is not effecting them right at the moment they could care less. So many things in this valley and the country are run in the same way, people bitch but no one will stand up and be the first to actually do something.

  5. Aggrieved Party
    Jan 15, 2014, 1:29 pm

    Rick,
    I think you will find this matter to be the exception to your apathy assumption. Several people have already stood up and voiced their objections. These voices will continue their vigilance of this project in the future. The rush to support this project at the expense of orderly development will come back to haunt Eagle City Hall. By the time this project is functional and the very real attendant problems of traffic and noise complaints are laid at City Hall’s feet to solve, it will be election time again. Regardless of what support City Hall gives to this project, the fact remains that the basic business plan is fundamentally flawed. There are a number of short and long term development issues which could derail this park’s financial success. Location, average yearly temps higher than freezing, and lack of fresh water to keep the wake board pond from becoming a algae filled cesspool will be ongoing challenges to success. In the long run they must be good neighbors to the community as well. Time will tell.

  6. I have read your many letters on this issue Joan and thank you for your work and fortitude. You have brought transparency to many aspects concerning this proposal. I share your concerns. Seems like a project of this magnitude and in such a reversal from public land ownership to private commercial venture, involving using tax dollars for purchase (taking away from fund for other Eagle parks) and pre-existing public funded facilities, warrants a vote, like in March when we’re also going to polls to vote on tenative proposed school levy.

  7. What is wrong with leasing public lands for a profit? Does not such profit come back to the citizen’s government for the benefit of the citizens? Seems like revenue from the lease could help support police, fire, library, etc.

    Also after the 20 year lease is complete, I would assume like most ground leases, any improvements upon the land become ownership of the City. Hopefully Mr. Neptune puts some good money into facilities, facilities the city would own in 20 years.

    I also think if you can activate a property which is a buffer zone, and monetize and use it in some way, that is better than just bare land sitting idle. I do not know of any families who tell me about their experience having a picnic in the landfill buffer zone bare land, but it seems to me families might enjoy a snow park.

    So long as the City and County are following the proper process and the law, we should let them, at the risk or reward of their political career, do their job.

    If I were to take issue with anything it would be the county selling the property for below appraised value, and the concern the City of Eagle did not publicly bid this opportunity, but I would hope these agencies are following their own policies and law, or they invite their own problems, but let’s not demonize public private partnerships nor profits.

    If what the agencies are doing is within policy and law, then let’s take issue with the policy or law, not the agencies and people.

    EDITOR NOTE–As we understand it, the EXCLUSIVE lease was not put out for bids and the only “skin in the game” regarding use of the 35 acres is a tiny commission to Eagle for lift tickets–no land investment for the operator and no competition.

  8. Foothills Rider
    Jan 16, 2014, 7:16 pm

    Having been intimately involved in the demise of the fiasco that was Dynamis, I see a parallel in the process here more than anything else. In both instances, an unsolicited bid came forth to benefit a private enterprise through use of public property. In each case, even if the various parties (Council, citizens, county, city) “like” or “dislike” the basic tenets proposed, the process for approving or not approving the “project” is not being followed.

    Recall in Dynamis, an “Industrial Park” in the form of “ARTIC” was established after the council was wooed by Mr. Mahaffey (unsolicited). Then, that and a number of zoning changes were made conveniently and surreptitiously to eventually “allow” what would have otherwise not been allowed per zoning in the form of a HUGE for-profit power plant (that initially was touted as an ancillary, minor add-on to the land fill). The damning evidence included a false open bid process in conjunction with ARTIC after the fact, even as contracts were already being drafted for Dynamis.

    So, what would be prudent here? If Ada County, in connection with Eagle and the existing park lease, determine that some new venture or development would benefit the citizens at this specifically zoned parcel, shouldn’t there be a vote and approval, a design and input, and an open bid process to actually construct the agreed upon delivery? I have no doubt Mr. Neptune is good at what he does…if the legal process was/is followed, a winning bid might just be in his hands…but there also might not be so much give-away to him for a private venture. Unlike the backers of Dynamis, Mr. Neptune actually has a track record. But just “seeming like a good idea” does not override the process that is NOT taking place here.

    Once again, the cart has come before the horse in the form of Mr. Neptune’s unsolicited bid. I think Mr. Case learned this, hence his holding out.

  9. should be put out to bid. Maybe not required by law, but ethics demands there is some effort from government to let others compete for the opportunity, and use the competitive market to ensure a market based deal (hopefully a best deal) for the citizens and their public land.

    Unfortunate that ethics is becoming defined as the minimum effort required by law.

  10. Aggrieved Party
    Jan 20, 2014, 11:01 am

    Since when did the City of Eagle become flush with disposable cash? Making interest free loans with a return on investment tied to future ticket sales is not a good business plan. Taking risks with taxpayer dollars based on a project’s future financial good health is a fools errand for any City Hall. One needs look only as far as Nampa to see what happens when City Hall predictions of financial success fail miserably.
    This snow park venue was first sold as a low cost taxpayer participation with the developer putting the majority of skin in the game. Upping the ante of taxpayer dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars means years before any tangible positive cash flow might possibly be realized.
    It was wholly irresponsible for city leaders to fail to first quantify the impacts and final dollar costs before committing to a concession agreement with developers. There are way too many blank checks waiting to be added to the true cost of doing business with this venture. Studies have shown that the revenue “multiplier” of such “specific use” parks is far less than the same money put into other methods to attract new business to a city. This weather dependent venue is subject to reduced days of operation which further reduces the multiplier. Management by crisis (dealing with the cost of each downstream impact problem) is never good stewardship of taxpayer funds. Budgets drive taxes with the inevitable result being higher taxes to support each and every “project du’ jour that city fathers “think” up. Cities leaders should stick to provisioning essential city services first and leave the business of business to the private sector. There is a big difference between facilitation and participation. For this taxpayer, the “ends” simply do not justify the “means” in this project.

  11. You mention the Dynamis debacle and now this. Yet from what I understand Yzaguirre is running for another term this year (I’m not sure if it’s 2 or 4 year this time), and I have not heard of anyone stepping up to oppose him. Seems absolutely ridiculous that he can just collect the huge paycheck and stay there for a decade (longer?) and never be accountable for anything.

  12. As usual politicians are around and never seem to go away. Until voters wake up and vote them out they will continue to be the snakes in the grass.

    This all smells like padding pockets to me. It does need to go out to bid. But the other big question is why is the Ada County accepting a price below appraised value? Especially, if it is going to be leased to a private business who will make money on the venture and with a cost to taxpayers who will get the honor to subsidized this private business and pay taxes too, lucky us!

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