Eagle Foothills Under Attack

As the leading “growthophobe” on the Idaho blog scene, the GUARDIAN is forced to comment on the latest “planned development” which was announced across the front page of the Statesman Monday.

In a journalistic “coup” (we used to call that a scoop) Cynthia Sewell tells of yet another Arizona developer with plans to pave and populate our once wide open spaces. This time the Arizona guy wants to ruin 6,800 acres of rolling foothills north of Eagle.

You can check out Sewell’s growth story for details, but the GUARDIAN has it on good authority the Arizona land dude is as sharp as the needles on a saguaro cactus. (for you non-library types that’s “suh-worro”)

He is playing Eagle’s feel good happy mayor Nancy Merrill like one of those western swing guitar songs that originated in Arizona and even supports Boise mayor “Team Dave” Bieter on the issue of planned communities being attached to cities and not stand alone like Avimor on Highway 55 at Spring Valley Ranch.

The Arizona guy is selling land to “horse people” and scamming the city of Eagle at the same time. Here’s how it works:

–Eagle is negotiating with the BLM to get nearly 2,000 acres at $10 an acre to “protect” the foothills north of their city with a park. Developer Dude comes in and builds adjacent to the park, offers people miles and miles of “equestrian trails,” and citizens of Eagle foot the bill to develop the park and trail system which will help sell lots. The “equestrian development” would fall flat without Eagle annexing and writing ordinances that allow horses in their city.

–Without annexation the developer would have to provide water, sewer, fire, etc. at his expense. Of course he prefers to be annexed into Eagle over the cost of complying with county ordinances.

Even so, there is an increasing mood among city councilors and mayors in Ada County that if they don’t annex potential development land, it will fall under the rules, laws, plans, and tax revenues of the county–not the cities. They all think they can do a better job than the county when it comes to “good development.” We don’t know the answer to that one, but we fear the county is too eager to approve these “planned communities.”

Planned communities are subdivisions any way you look at them, but they are outside the reaches of the various cities. We are a little vague on this part, but subdivisions of small land parcels are not allowed OUTSIDE cities unless they are part of a PLANNED COMMUNITY. Planned communities are nothing more than subdivisions, but they have token requirements which often fail to meet the spirit of the law.

Some examples are offering “space for fire equipment” but not really building a fire station or providing firemen and trucks, building narrow streets in order to crowd more houses per acre, providing substandard water systems. All this is to get qualified as a planned community for the sake of subdividing.

The developers often pay politicians–usually through money laundering “PACS.” They join and enlist the Chamber of Commerce with promises of “economic growth.” They sponsor romantic getaways at Sun Valley where the developers, contractors, bankers, and other “growthoholics” conspire to screw the rest of us under the guise of “smart blueprints for good growth.”

As long as life in California is more miserable and more expensive than Idaho we can expect to line the pockets of those with enough cash to buy our lifestyle. We can’t blame Brad Little for taking the money and running from a vanishing lifestyle, but growth does NOT equate to IMPROVEMENT.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Sad (and MAD) in Eagle
    Apr 4, 2006, 2:15 am

    Sounds like we are getting “Californicated” yet again!

  2. We moved to Eagle a few years ago when we retired because we were tired of the hustle and bustle in Boise. It is going to be worse here in a few years and we will probably not be able to pay the increased property taxes. Worse yet will be the water rationing that will probably have to occur. What is wrong with Mayor Merrill that she wants to destroy a lovely community like Eagle? And the county commissioners are as bad or worse.

  3. T.J. says, “what is wrong with Mayor Merrill?”

    I submit that there are a lot more folks than just the mayor and the developer at this little dance party. It’s time to stop griping about what elected officials are or aren’t doing, stand up on our hind feet AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! If enough people holler, it can make a difference. Take it from a Crescent Rim-er who has been there. Get up and fight!

  4. Wow!
    You really lay it on the line — and you are absolutely right.
    I live in Gem County, near Emmett, and the “outsiders” are busily trying to turn our region, also, into another Boise/L..A./Phoenix.
    This valley, long known for its orchards, is becoming known for its groves of houses instead of trees.
    Like developers in Boise (whether they’re from Arizona or California or wherever), they have tremendous dirtaphobia — “Eek! There’s a spot with dirt with stuff growing on it. Quick, put up houses, shopping centers, anything.”
    They don’t care whether the stuff growing in that dirt is sagebrush or food for the teeming masses they’re attracting to ruin what’s left of this beautiful state — they want that growing stuff chopped down, plowed up, whatever it takes to turn each spot into another subdivision.
    Talk to F&G — can’t we have an open season on these guys?

    ED NOTE–Old Florida joke with a native asking a cop, “If it’s tourist season why can’t we shoot ’em?”

  5. We could use more “growthophobes” in public office.

    I lay some of the blame at the foot of all the people who are fueling the development binge. Their American Dream is that little bit o’ heaven in the country, where they can run the pony or push dirt with a toy tractor. And who can blame ’em? But, when they’re picking out their colors and their carpeting, they seem to ignore the added load they will be putting on the infrastructure.

    I doubt the 45-minute work commute (each way, in bumper-to-bumper traffic with 20,000 fellow dreamers) is part of the vision. Nor are the services that are a long drive away, or the overcrowded “portable” classrooms their kids attend, or the overextended water and sewer systems. When they awake from the dream to face reality, they start complaining about how bad traffic is, and why don’t we have water pressure and more classrooms?? (DUH!!)

    There’s a familiar jingle on a farm-store commercial, touting the country life: “There’s a price you pay, to get away…” But the people who buy it seem unwilling to pay the price. Instead, it should be shouldered by everybody – particularly the folks whose yards are condemned to make way for wider roads, etc.

    The Ballantyne / Homer / Linder loop has long been one of my favorite bicycle rides. But once the sage-covered rolling hills are obscured by a sea of identical cracker-box rooftops… at least my bike probably won’t be adding to the congestion very often.

    (Do I sound bitter? Golly, I hope not.)

  6. BoiseCitizen
    Apr 4, 2006, 2:26 pm

    That is just the first incarnation. I remember when Hidden Springs was telling folks “Oh,yeah,we got open space,and an equestrian center,etc.,etc.” The original developer then sells out to Developer B who says forget that, we want to do something else. Buyer A who bought into the original plan and wanted horses now can’t have the horses. Ouch. Then Developer B finds out about local politics and sells out to Developer C and on and on. Meanwhile the plans change and the growth just goes on unchecked. Sterile subdivisions everywhere.

  7. I would like to know if TJ and family bought a new house when they moved to Eagle “a few years ago”? It is easy to get what you want and then blame your neighbors for getting theirs. No one wants to think that their actions are spurring on the growth.

  8. I, like TJ bought a home in Eagle a few years ago. It was built in 1923 and remodeled many times by the original family through two generations. This was a timeframe we refer to as Before the Bypass or (bb). I have lived in subdivided neighborhoods and in older homes which predate the growth. I have been attacked, well chastised, on this blog for living on a 1.5 acre lot in the country across the road from the area of impact line. Although I no longer live in Eagle, I feel concern that there be some midground between NO growth, and nature-be-damned-let’s-cover-every-square-inch-with-a-butt-ugly-box. I surely do not have all the answers. I simply believe one of the obvious ones is NO! I don’t care if they’re horse trails or go-kart paths…NO seems like an okay answer. Shame that greed gets in the way.

  9. Mayor Merrill is quoted in that article saying “Acquiring the BLM land will be a really great opportunity to protect some of those sensitive Foothills areas from development and keep the land and trails open to horseback riders.” This is misleading because Eagle does not need to acquire the park to prevent the land from being developed or to keep the land open for equestrian uses.

    If people are concerned about Eagle’s plans for the BLM land and potential collusion with the developer I would suggest they contact the local BLM office and demand an EIS on the proposal prior to any land grant to the city of Eagle. Furthermore you should ask that the EIS look at how Eagle intends to manage the lands and whether their proposal will make it easier for the adjacent development to occur and whether public access to the BLM land will be changed. The EIS should also determine whether the adjacent proposed development will negatively impact the BLM lands.

  10. No, We didn’t buy a new house. I have never lived in a new house…don’t want to either. We have never been into conspicuous consumption and are far from rich. We still own my first little house in Boise and have rented it out for many years. We may very well end up back in that house if our tenants decide to leave. It just amazes me that people just keep coming. Where are they working that they can afford $500,000 houses? I never made that much money and am now on a fixed income. We probably couldn’t afford the house we live in if we had to buy it today. I think Eagle is going to be a snooty, unpleasant place to live in a few years. It would be really nice to be wrong about this. Where did you move to, Tam? We are thinking about a manufactured home in the Hagerman area.

  11. lib.Redneck
    Apr 5, 2006, 8:56 am

    I’m that guy that lives in the cracker-box house. I’m that guy that is contributing to your commute time. I’m that guy that shops at big box stores. How do you like me now!

    Let this growth/development issue go. Trying to stop it is like pissing on a forest fire. Not a person commenting on this has the resources or the time to fight the beasts of development. (Gee whiz, am I apathetic or what?)

    What’s the big deal with people wanting horses? “Oh Oh! Look at my equestrian center. It’s so perfect with big white stables. I can’t wait to pay a membership to this place to have other more capable people take care of my horse.” –Just about anyone in Eagle.

    Wasn’t it Vasquez out of Nampa that sent that bill to Mexico to cover the costs of the immigrants to Canyon County. Maybe Idaho should do the same to other states who keep sending their people and their (developmental) problems to Idaho. Seems fair.

    Everyone wants MOPI.
    (My Own Private Idaho)

  12. You guys are all bummed because you didn’t build a beige paint factory here in the valley. What about all those “dollar stores” you could have opened or “check cashing” joints? Dang, I’m bummed too. You could have participated in all the growth and got RICH in the process. Wasn’t it Ronald Reagan that taught us in the 80’s the mantra, “greed is good”? If that’s true then some of us native Idahoans are mighty fine examples of those very qualities.

  13. I have lived in Boise all of my 50 years. I don’t
    have a problem with people that have moved here from any particular place (like California). I just remember what it was like in the early 70’s when we hunted pheasants between Hill rd. & State st. just west of Collister. Nobody worried about houses in the foothills because the only ones there were ranches (real ones) that had been there for decades.

    Mile High (a wonderfull picnic area) was still at the top of 8th street road. You could drive or ride from Cartwright rd. over “the hill” to the old Horseshoe Bend-Idaho City road and landowners didn’t mind as long as you closed the gates. I remember drives to Nampa on Hwy. 30 (Franklin rd.) before the freeway was built that offered views of a truly rural and expansive division between small towns and cities.

    The sad fact is…there are just too many people…no matter where they came from. I know I’m a “stick in the mud” but this valley was a heck of a lot nicer place to live 30 or 40 years ago. And more fun too.

  14. Lib, you crack me up. You said, “Not a person commenting on this has the resources or the time to fight the beasts of development. (Gee whiz, am I apathetic or what?)”

    I’m the mother of 3 busy 10-year olds, work full time, and still had the wherewithal and the energy to be a player in the fight to “downsize” the Crescent Rim project for 2-1/2 years. All it takes to start is a few people to organize and stand up for what is right, and then a lot of staying power. (We also had an awesome leader.)

    TJ and the rest of you, my apologies for not being more timely with the following – lost the website and took forever to re-find. This site,, is absolutely platinum! It has a detailed handbook you can download on how to win land development issues. Have a look:

    Then go for it. Stand up for what you believe in. You may win, but even if you don’t, you will know you put up the good fight and didn’t let the scoundrels steamroller over your rights.

  15. Thanks, Meglea, for that link. I have bookmarked it and look forward to reading the information.

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