Sad Commentary On Growth

Joanne Pence
Dry Creek Rural Neighborhood Association

Twenty-three new planned communities are proposed for Ada County according to the Statesman’s front page article of October 11, 2006.

If approved, these massive “planned communities” will give us sprawl as far as the eye can see.

It’s this kind of mindless development that has made Phoenix, Denver and Las Vegas bloated, environmentally challenged eyesores, and could result in an Ada County with no wildlife, clogged roads and freeways, and collapsed infrastructures. But, gee, there will be a lot of happy developers.

Fully one-third of the planned communities will be placed in the Foothills. Say goodbye to the beautiful natural backdrop to Boise and Eagle, good-bye to wildlife and nearby trails. Hello, Hollywood hills (gridlock, smog, no wildlife, no greenery, no recreation, overcrowded schools, fire hazards, and piped in water from heaven knows where).

Here’s the breakdown of what’s proposed:

– The Cliffs – 1,300 homes (approved by P&Z Board, to County Commissioners next)
– M3 – 12,000 homes
– Dry Creek Ranch – 4,300 homes
– Cartwright Ranch – 700 homes
– Avimor – 8,000 homes (680 homes have been approved as “phase 1”; the number of homes for succeeding phases is “said to be” in the 6000-8000 range)
– Connelly – 4,000 homes (number not settled–still on the “drawing board”)
– Kastera – number unknown (they have acquired enough land for a planned community that encompasses the Shadow Valley Golf Course. They also have two additional large parcels of land, one in the northwest foothills area, and another in the central foothills north of 36th Street.) 
The number of homes to be built in the Foothills totals 30,980 without Kastera. Keep in mind that planned communities consist not only of single family residences, but also townhouses, condos, some have apartment buildings, and all have some kind of commercial development. That means traffic, folks. Lots of it.

The Ada County Highway District and developers themselves estimate between 232,350 and 309,800 vehicle trips per day will be generated by those communities. Cars will pour down Highway 55 in numbers greater than the Flying Wye at commute time, and from there onto State Street, Eagle Road, Seaman’s Gulch, Hill Road, and Warm Springs to downtown Boise, Eagle, or I-84. The nightmare intersection of Eagle and Franklin has “only” 54,000 vehicle per day!

COMPASS, ITD and ACHD did not expect high density development in the Foothills and have allocated no money for new or widened roadways there. The public has spoken loud and clear that it does not want the Foothills developed. The recent Ada County Comprehensive Plan update and the Blueprint for Good Growth both go along with the public’s wishes.

Will Ada County’s planning staff, P&Z board, and County Commissioners support the public or act like the Developers’ Cheerleader Squad?

Only time will tell. Enjoy the Treasure Valley while you can. It might not last much longer.

EDITOR NOTE–Developers at Hidden Springs caused the collapse of a county road and that planned community has already been altered into a big subdivision after the “plan” failed to attract buyers. Even so it is touted as a great example of planned growth.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Deer Running Scared
    Oct 16, 2006, 2:29 pm

    Even though it will be within city limits, you can add Harris Ranch expansion to your list- approx. 3000 homes. Application will be filed next month.

    Time for changing of the guard at Ada County. Lets elect commissioner’s that will listen to the public they serve and not just those with blueprints, bulldozers & building permits.

  2. It just makes me sick what is happening to this valley – but the pro-growth people just keep saying it is inevitable until most of us begin to believe it.

    We don’t have enough water, sewage capacity or wind (to blow the smog away) to support that many more people. Looks like we need to picket the Commissioners until they come to their senses.

  3. Guardian, my perception is that the readers of your web page are in general agreement with Joanne. Does anybody think Boise and vicinity just keeps getting better and better, the more people we have?

    I’ve been particularly disappointed with Mayor Bieter. I voted for him, primarily because he’s a lifelong Boise resident (as am I), and I expected him to be much more protective of our small-town persona than he has been.

    It sickens me, almost literally, when I go on a bicycle ride in what used to be rolling meadows, or sagebrush country, or spearmint fields… and now the land is occupied by seas of identical 3-tab rooftops. And the quiet little 2-lane country roads I used to ride have been replaced by 5-lane arterials, with congestion at every intersection.

    But, on the other hand, I’m conflicted because I generally support the notion of people being able to do with their property what they would like, and what will maximize the value of the land. Why shouldn’t Ma and Pa Boondocks sell their acreage to some deep-pockets developer, when he comes dangling the cash? (As long as Deep Pockets knows he’s got friends at City Hall, the cash will keep on danglin’.)

    Another question. Where do you draw the line? Do the “Hidden Springs” folks have any grounds to complain that the land surrounding THEM is being developed? It smacks of bitter irony when I see the folks who have put down roots at “Harris Ranch” complaining about the traffic that will be generated by new development farther east. For most of my life, Harris Ranch was occupied by cows and the Harris family! (When I attended Roosevelt Elementary, I used to stand “safety patrol” at Warm Springs and Maple… and it was a rare occasion when there was any real need for a safety patrol, because there wasn’t that much traffic on Warm Springs. Of course, back in those days the debate was over “Warm Springs Mesa,” rather than “The Cliffs.”)

  4. It looks envitable that growth will be happening on a hill or valley near somebody soon. Impact fees and the local taxing districts (Legislature looked into a couple of years ago) need to be approved and implemented. This would allow developers and gov. agencies to plan and pay for growth ahead of time, instead of waiting for buildout.

    Also, working with the development community could be another plan to help shape the future. The developers and county P&Z/commissioners are getting clobered with direct attacks by the various savemybackyard and neighborhood groups daily. No wonder you think they never listen to the general public.

    This link was posted here before by someone else and is worth a look.
    They talk about working with together and getting the concessions you want.

    Where is the opposition to the rest of the development in the valley, gobbling up farmland left and right. Corey Barton builds 1500-2000 homes per year and Hubble is right behind them. Even the nations largest home builder, D.R. Horton, has a few subdivisions going. All of these are approved 40 or 50 lots at a time by the various cities, under the radar.

  5. OK. I’ve seen plenty on these pages on what to advocate against. I agree we don’t want to look like Phoenix. But we just marked the day when the country has 300 million people living in it. Growth will continue to happen and we can never go back. So what ideas are being ignored by P&Z to which we need to call attention?

    Personally I liked that the Mayor is seeking to focus developer’s attention to SE Boise for future development. I can’t think of a single reason workers at Micron couldn’t live close to their workplace which should be much more desireable with rising gas prices. Are the rules regarding density out of whack? Do we need to revisit certain ordinances? Do we artificially raise the cost of developing in certain areas?

    I like to gripe as much as the next guy but its a fairly negative post. Its easy to point out the bad things. How do we make life better in the Treasure Valley given that growth will be a constant? I mean, if growth is the gripe, shouldn’t you all be advocating for Planned Parenthood? Or we could set up some Californian Abatement Districts and spray for ’em.

  6. I also think Ma & Pa should be able to sell their land for big bucks–more power to them–but the problem comes in when people have bought in a rural area currently zoned for 1 house per 40, 10, or even 5 acres, and suddenly learn a “planned community” is going up next door with not only houses, but businesses, apartments, and heaven-only-knows what else. People who have bought in a rural area (and don’t want to sell their homes and land) should have rights and protections as well. Instead, Ada County’s ordinance on planned communities seems to encourage developers to put up these “mini-cities”–and to put them on rural county land, throwing all zoning regulations right out the window.

  7. I am always amazed at the response concerning growth. I am also amazed that most of it comes from people that they themselves have transplanted to the area. Why did you move here? Why shouldn’t someone else have that opportunity? In fact I am very sure the Native Americans said the same thing when the Europeans came over. Who says that Ada County, Boise, Eagle, etc is yours and only yours to be shared with no one?

    Why bash on Ada County, when Eagle, Boise, Star and every other city is always trying to acquire more ground to incorporate into their city for uh oh, the nasty word, DEVELOPMENT.

    Do we not live in a free country that says that EVERYONE is entitled to life and liberty even in Ada County? Planned communities are the only way to go if you are planning an entire development that will bring in a large amount of people. They are held to a higher standard and must meet requirements that normal subdivision don’t have to.

    It is also very easy to sit and complain from the sidelines especially when you have not been to all of the meetings nor have all of the facts. Also when Lucky 13 moves to Harris Ranch I don’t want to see any of you there enjoying it because it is in uh oh, a planned community.

  8. Dunno whether y’all have heard about this already, but a plumber who helped install plumbing in the Hidden Springs fiasco says he got a call that the new plumbing was leaking.
    He checked it out — sure enough, there was a flood under the house, he checked it out, nope, the plumbing wasn’t leaking: The water was flowing up from underground.

    Duh! Bet that home-buyer had no idea why the develpment was called “HIDDEN SPRINGS.”
    Now he knows where at least one of those springs was “hidden.”
    (Howcum I feel no sympathy for him? Hmmm.)

  9. The biggest issue is water. There is not a current water inventory report, potential impact on existing wells, etc.

    The Snake River Adjudication process and watermaster should have primacy over any development as the Boise river system is already mired in legal challenges and there is not an accurate ground water inventory to accurately estimate where the static water level is and what will happen to it when the new wells go in to supply the new development.

    We live in a desert and do not have the dam capacity that the developers could fall back on in CA & AZ.

    Last year was the first year in 7 that we enjoyed above average precipitation – prior to that we were in a record setting drought. The long term forecast is for a drier & warmer than normal winter. Going into a prolonged drought may be the best thing to limit growth….

  10. Sissy–I often agree with you, but you missed the mark on this one.
    We don’t have GROWTH happening here. We have DEVELOPMENT happeninng here to attract the growth HERE. Your mayor friend among others strive to join the Chamber as “pro business.” They strive to be “business friendly” and recently budgeted a $5 million ad campaign to attract people here.

    If they want to come on their own fine, but don’t create a demand, cater to it and then tell us “growth is inevitable.” CBS quotes the US Government that most growth in USA is from immigrants. We are third fastest growing country behind China and India. Yes, planned parenthood and ZPG are great ideas.

    You make my case. Planned communities are designed to “bring in” large amounts of people.” The reason Ada County bets bashed on this one is because it creates leap frog development which is even worse than sprawl. There would not be “large amounts of people” in rural Ada without the planned community ordinance.

    We need to have a “planned rural open space” ordinance.

  11. Didn’t realize I was advocating for anything but something for which to advocate. But thanks Mr. Logic, you’ve given me something to sink my teeth into instead of just saying: “growth bad”. I’m not against attracting business but certainly I’m not too keen on the idea that a housing boom is what’s needed to drive the economy. I guess if we want to talk about the the goal of specific local government policies I’d grapple with it but merely giving us a picture of the quantity of growth coming our way, well, the problem ain’t news, the solutions would be.

  12. I hope gas hits $5.00/ gallon. That will slow some of the growth. Also, who is lending the money to pay for all this? China? WalMart? Will $12.00/hr. service jobs employ all the people moving here? Where do they work? Must all be selling stuff on eBay. On the water issue, I expect to get a letter from my irrigation district telling me about the benefits of selling my water right and switching to city drinking water for my yard irrigation any time now.

  13. Sis,

    Your comments are right on target. Let’s be solution oriented. By working together amongst all stakeholders, solutions will come along that will satisfy most involved in the process. Look at the recent efforts in the Owyhees and CIEDRA. Not perfect, but everybody worked together to protect more lands.

  14. Inside City Hall
    Oct 16, 2006, 9:10 pm

    SIS – the mayor and council are simply focused on their grand plan to “drive” urban density. The problem is you cannot drive massive urban density without opening the door for denisity in the farmland areas – otherwise you discriminate.

    Their grand plan is also to “force” the regional transit tax (gets them lots more tax money – billions!) – something like “create the problem so you can get the fix you wanted all the time.”

  15. curious george
    Oct 16, 2006, 11:18 pm

    Okay, okay…

    53% of Ada County is owned by the State and Federal government – permanently.

    What should spook folks is not the groups interested in building developments that require an additional 10% of their landmass to be permanently set aside in natural open space, and which require the creation of an additional 10 acres of developed parkland for every additional 1,000 residents (or 1 acre for every 40 homes – which equates to 1 square foot of parkland for every 5 square feet of residential land).

    But it should be the indescriminant sprawl that is currently processed by each and every city in the valley that should greatly concern every thoughtful person. It is NOT the planned communities that spell doom for the valley, it is the 20-100 unit low-density sprawl developments that drive our quality of life down and rob the public coffers. It is this type of suburban sprawl development that steals the farmland, gobbles up natural open space, and leaves a pattern of development that destroys our youth’s future. I am at a loss as to why anyone would equate this type of true sprawl with a development pattern that values open space preservation and which improves human habitat.

    It should not be lost on ANYONE that the politicians who are crying the loudest about the “horrors” of planned communities, are the very ones that are literally picking our pockets by approving low-density sprawl at every public hearing. And, it is these same politicians which insist that any development that plugs into a municipally run sewer and/or water system is inherently better than a development required to build & pay for their own systems – who cares that the public debt increases with every main-lined development.

    Higher-density, mixed-use development actual generates less traffic than the sprawl developments being approved by the cities. If the demographers are correct (and no one has offered any reason to doubt their population growth projections), the Treasure Valley will grow by 480,000 people within the next 25 years. If these people end up living in what the cities’ view as reasonable and “sustainable” development – we will all be impoverished. There will be no open space, no parks, no verdent tracks of farmland, no clean air, no clean water, no transit.

    Let there be new cities built – each with its own employment base, and each surrounded by natural open space. Let’s keep the valley from becoming one giant “rurban” mass of undifferentiated housing tracks.

  16. Mr. Logic wins hands down on this one as far as I’m concerned. The problem isn’t GROWTH, not even DEVELOPMENT–it’s where these huge planned communities are being put. Rural land is cheaper than urban or even suburban, and with the way Ada Co’s planned community ordinance is structured, it encourages developers to leapfrog away from already built infrastructures (roads, emergency services, etc.) into rural areas. That’s the problem, not planned communities as such (I happen to think they’re better than subdivisions).

    To put planned communities in an area where there are no roads (as an example), such as the Foothills, and then expect the taxpayers to widen roads and build new ones to support all that traffic is madness. Yes, ACHD can assess “impact fees” and even “extraordinary fees” connected with roads in and by the new development, but they can’t ask a developer to pay to widen Eagle Road or State Street, for example. But somebody will have to if a population the size of Meridian (and that’s what we’re talking about) ends up in the Foothills.

  17. It appears that elected officials/planners/developers are indeed creating a problem, for which there is NO fix.

  18. curious george
    Oct 17, 2006, 9:47 am


    Who said the county can’t require planned community developers to pay to correct existing system deficiencies? There’s a huge gap between what an agency can mandate a developer to do via an exaction, and what a developer can willingly concede to do through a Development Agreement.

    The county has been negotiating very large concessions from developers to correct existing roadway problems and to improve public services (problems created not my the planned communities but by the haphazard developments approved by less enlightened landuse agencies).

    The very purpose behind planned communites is to ensure that existing taxpayers will not have to pay for a single penny of the developments’ impacts. This is very much UNLIKE what occurs when a city approves things like Harris Ranch.

    Since it’s Halloween season, the ghost story that should spook everyone is that the City of Eagle appears to be catering to M3 and Suncor to bring these potential developments into the city limits – with the sole purpose of passing the debt incurred by the developers (as they build out infrastructure) onto existing taxpayers.

    Please note, that neither M3 or Suncor are choosing to negotiate with the county. Why is this? Could it be because the county would require the developers to be fiscally responsible and contain their impacts? Could it be that the county would require the construction of public parks & trails (at no cost to the public)? Could it be that the county would require the developers to capture black- & grey-water and treat it to use for irrigation water? Could it be that the county would require the developers to have a diversity of housing types? Could it be that the county would require the developers to have a wildlife mitigation plan? Could it be that the county would also perform biennial audits to ensure the developer is actually adhering to the terms of the development agreement?

    Or could it be that the developers feel that it would be easier to blow one past an over-worked, understaffed, small city development department? Or maybe it’s simply because the City of Eagle will give these developers whatever they want just to “get” the development?

    Developable land in Ada County is very constrained, with government-owned land to the north, the south, and the east. With such a configuration, there can be no such thing as leapfrog development in Ada County. It makes for good press fodder, but leapfrog development in Ada County isn’t physically possible. The closest Ada County residents can experience to such “leapfrogging” is the corybartinization of Canyon County. The real threat within Ada County (something we can all address through the Blueprint for Good Growth) is the indiscriminate growth and homoginization of west Meridian, Star, and Eagle.

  19. Clippityclop
    Oct 17, 2006, 2:23 pm

    Curious George,
    I would love to believe you about the powers of the County with regard to planned community developments. Requirements for approval are one thing, enforcement is another. I’m afraid that the County’s Ordinance 621 is toothless. Go ahead, have a good look and tell me it ain’t so. These communities are to be reviewed periodically but what are the consequences for deviation? Zip. Further, requiring a wildlife mitigation plan does not ensure that said plan makes sense or is endorsed by Idaho Fish & Game, who ought to have veto powers over the unworkable. With regard to roadways, yes, ACHD can exact extraorinary impact fees but what about ITD? There is currently no mechanism in place for ITD to accept impact fees and this issue needs to be brought forward to the legislature. Where does this leave us? Gridlocked, unless the County is willing to look at the foothills regionally before considering individual PC applications and follow Blueprint for Good Growth and COMPASS recommendations jointly. While I have serious doubts that individual PCs won’t cost the tax payers plenty (the track record here is not good in other cities), I will guarantee that unless all PCs in a sensitive, infrastructureless area such as the foothills are considered in toto before approval, the price to all Ada County residents will be devastating with regard to traffic, air quailty, habitat and wildlife loss, recreation loss, quality of life loss (it’s the foothills that make this valley great, get it?) and water (there is no substitute). And yes, it is sprawl, because believe it or not, the vast majority of Hidden Springs residents are not making their mortgage payments by working at the Merc… they go to town! Phoenixization is not the answer, my friend.

  20. Curious,
    Although I disagree with you on leapfrogging, I do agree that it’s scary to see M3, Suncor, and who knows how many more developers going hat-in-hand to Eagle saying “Take me, take me!” I can’t help but wonder who’ll really get taken in that deal.

    The fact that developers who bought RURAL county land–almost all zoned 1 home/40 acres–now are asking to be annexed by Eagle and want their land re-zoned for high density development, shows an incredible amount of chutzpah. While I don’t believe the County has the “teeth” you suspect in dealing with these powerhouse developers (see Clippityclop’s comments), your comments make it sound as if Eagle isn’t even teething yet!

  21. Having just returned from the second night of meetings involving the Eagle foothills (attended by hundreds of others taking an interest in the process), I thought a great deal of planning is going into the decisions that would allow development in the foothills. For one thing, the numbers being cited for future development by M3, Avimore, Kastera, and Connolly are a whole lot less than originally requested. If you look at Eagle’s past development, those proposing subdivisions have received substantially less than requested (and cried all the way to the bank when they got it). Eagle’s planning for the foothills is looking at involving citizen groups (not the developers themselves) in the study of transportation, open space, wildlife, pathways, density, water, schools, police, fire, sewer, design and a whole lot of other aspects of planning issues before proceeding with the approval of the projects. Interestingly, the developers came to Eagle because they anticipated there would be a need to involve citizen input if they were to be allowed to proceed and they knew that had worked before. Before raising too much hell about what you THINK is happening, get involved in the process by joining groups like the Northern Foothills Association and actually working on proper planning for that area. I see it actually working.

  22. curious george
    Oct 17, 2006, 10:31 pm

    Since the early 70’s I’ve lived in Tucson, Albuquerque, and Anchorage – and what those communities lost when they approved development in their foothills, they lost because the built-form they approved was continuous and uninterrupted. It’s an undifferentiated edge, an edge with no end – low-density city with no open space. When you get to the middle of the THERE, there’s no THERE there (there’s actually no way to tell you’ve reached the center of the THERE). And you can bet that those developments were all hooked up to central sewer and water, and were fully compliant to the ordinances and comprehensive plans.

    This is the boogie man that’s hiding under our collective bed. It certainly isn’t development that, by definition, is non-contiguous with existing developed space. Even though over half of Ada County is open access public land the presumption that the remaining rural, privately-owned land (zoned for 1 dwelling unit for every 10, 20, or 40 acres) is a reasonable substitute for preserved natural open space just doesn’t pass the logic test.

  23. clippityclop
    Oct 18, 2006, 7:49 am

    I agree with you that becoming involved and really understanding the issues is key. The North Ada County Foothills Association (, the Dry Creek Rural Neighborhood Association ( and Save The Plateau ( are wonderful places to get information on how to be involved. The foothills are under tremendous pressure and have never needed public input and support more. At least the ACHD is beginning to pay attention!

  24. Excellent observations from Curious George.

    It’s better to have an planned community than an unplanned community. For most of the 1990s, for example, Meridian tripled in size without adding any parks, commerce or services. Having the imprimatur of a city on your project doesn’t mean its builders have made any plans for trip containment, services, schools, etc.

    At one point, the ACHD actually proposed higher impact fees on deveopment outside of Boise, to acknowledge those residents drive into Boise for shopping, recreation and jobs. That was shot down but point made: cities have been growing and not practicing enough trip containment.

    In my opinion, city comprehensive plans try to replicate what’s already in planned community master plans. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do anything.

  25. clippityclop
    Oct 18, 2006, 11:12 am

    Trip capture is a wonderful concept, and planned community developments promise reduction from the usual 11 vehicle trips per household per day to 7.5 vehicle trips per household per day. Hidden Springs is a shining example of planned community trip capture, right here in our midst. Would anyone out there like to hazard a guess as to how many vehicle trips per day per household come out of that development?

  26. Stephen said the developers have gone to Eagle “because they anticipated there would be a need to involve citizen input if they were to be allowed to proceed.”

    That certainly is an optimistic view.

    Frankly, I’d like someone to explain to me why Eagle’s P&Z is even listening to the M3 developer’s presentation. It’s county land. Not Eagle’s, as much as Eagle might want it.

    Boise has said they wanted their “area of impact” to extend to The Cliffs, yet the County is hearing The Cliffs planned community presentation.

    Isn’t it the same situation with Eagle and M3? Eagle might want it, but it isn’t theirs yet.

    I’ve heard of Fantasy Baseball, but never Fantasy Planning & Zoning. Can someone explain?

  27. From what I heard, Joanne, M3 originally went to the County, but was surprised (and disappointed) at the lack of professional experience they found — enough that they didn’t think proper planning processes they had used on developments elsewhere were included in the County approach. Supposedly they like the “look” of Eagle and felt a development that would include more comprehensive planning, community involvement and an up scale appearance was more to their liking. (They actually said that at one meeting).

    The reason Eagle is looking at the foothills rather than the county is because the developers came to the city seeking to use them for their planning process and annexation. (That’s what one of the NACFA people who also prefers an Eagle vs. Ada County planning process said at a meeting). As several people at the Monday and Tuesday night meetings said, being able to plan the foothills when all the developments are considered at one time instead of just as lots of little pieces over a period of time is more likely to provide more reasonable (less) density where building is allowed, more interconnection of open space, and better transportation planning.

    If it’s going to happen (and since the land is private there’s likely to be SOMETHING happening), at least try and do it as good as you can. Hopefully — again with community involvement and input — that will be the result of the foothills plan as the process evolves (doing it as good as you can, that is).

  28. Regarding clippityclop’s question about vehicle trips per day associated with Hidden Springs: According to ACHD trip counts, divided by the number of residences, the number of vehicle trips per day is 10.79. This number comes to me courtesy of the good folks at COMPASS.

    There is some concern that the Hidden Springs charter school adds trips per day to the count as a result of people bringing their kids to this school from other parts of the valley. Subtracting the school related trips results in a trip per day number of 9.29.

    The latter number may be lower than the county average of 11.09, but it is still well above the 7.5 trips per day that Development Services is touting for planned communities. And, keep in mind that a round trip from Hidden Springs to just about anywhere exceeds ten miles. Given the distance Hidden Springs people have to drive to get to the stores etc., the vehicle trip-miles (i.e. the average length of each trip multiplied by the vehicle trips per day) for Hidden Spring may be very similar to, or even higher than, the trip-mile number for conventional subdivisions located in other parts of the valley.

  29. curious george
    Oct 19, 2006, 11:30 am

    And yet a round trip from just about any city in Ada County to any other city will still be ten or more miles, in many cases much more (except for Garden City). Per the US Census, the average commute time in Ada County is 20 minutes. This is each way, meaning that the average worker in Ada County is driving about ten miles to get to work, and another ten to get home (longer if they are using the freeway with its higher speed limits). Any development that reduces this trip length actually improves the overall road system efficiency and decreases air pollution.

    Note that no developer is permitted to “make up” what their trip generation rates will be. They are required to use the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ “Trip Generation Manual” – which is nothing more than a compendium of case studies of actual built projects. I believe The Cliffs’ traffic engineer used the known trip generation rate for a Planned Unit Development. Although a PUD would demonstrate LESS trip capture than a planned community, since a PUD does not have a mix of land uses (only a higher density of housing), it appears to be a good conservative figure to use. If The Cliffs developer were to use the trip generation rates of the known housing mix in their proposed development the generation rate would be even lower than a PUD – some attached housing product has trip generation rates below 6 trips per dwelling unit.

    Comparisons to Hidden Springs are futile, since such a development could not be approved in Ada County today – it doesn’t have enough commercial or enough density (and would not create enough trip capture) to pass muster as a PC. And, although the per dwelling unit trip generation rate for Hidden Springs (9.29) is well above a PUD’s – it is still below the county average and still below the ITE manual’s given rate of 9.57 trips per day for the average detached single family home.

    Is The Cliffs less than ten miles from major employment centers (downtown Boise or Micron)? I think that Suncor’s PC was only four miles to the intersection of State & 55 – and was closer to downtown Boise than the City of Star, and a lot closer than Nampa, Caldwell, or Emmett.

    This all goes to the point of what is meant by leapfrog development, and how nearly impossible it is to create leapfrog within the boundaries of Ada County.

  30. clippityclop
    Oct 19, 2006, 1:42 pm

    Your comments might make sense if infrastructure existed in the foothills. It does not, nor is there currently a mechanism or plan to provide it. The population estimate for the foothills if all of these planned community developments are approved will equal that of Meridian. Yes, 100,00 people. PC’s may make sense on paper, but you know the old saw: location, location, location. This is sprawl/ leapfrog, which otherwise spells gridlock.

  31. Joanne is completely right and as eloquent as usual. I am Chairman of the North Ada County Foothills Assn (NACFA), focused on the foothills north of Eagle, between Highways 16 and 55. Given that the vast majority of this land is private, there seems little doubt that there will be some degree of development here…and we accept that reality. However, everyone (county, city, ACHD, ITD, Compass, citizenry) is grappling with how much.

    One limit on this growth MUST be the ability of our highway/roadway system to handle the traffic. The fact of the matter is that ACHD and ITD funding is somewhere around the billion dollar mark IN THE HOLE in terms of making roadway improvements based on plans that show NO development in the foothills. The problem seems to be that the land use decision-makers, especially at Ada County (Mr Armstrong and Mr. Tilman in particular) choose to ignore this reality and run around town literally promoting the planned communities Joanne references and telling whomever will listen that they will do what they can to make them a reality…actually, a developer’s dream come true.

    Just consider the name of Mr. Armstrong’s department: “Development Services”…that pretty much says it all…as it stands right now, Ada County “planners” are acting like an adjunct to developers consultant teams (in this case paid by us).

    We are at a major crossroads (pun intended) in the Valley: Either [1] allow ourselves (our leaders on our “behalf”) to slide right into the same mess we see in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Seattle and countless other places–simply because we don’t have the backbone to say NO to developers or to truly require that they pay their way IN FULL, or [2] actually stand up and set an example for rest of the country–we WILL protect our quality of life; we WILL make sure that unmanaged growth for its own sake does not ruin the place we prize; we WILL NOT sit for hours of our lives at stop lights, in traffic jams, and start wanting to shoot one another because we are so D…ed mad that all these cars are in our way…

    It is time for a change in leadership. If you want to know who I am voting for, check the updates at the NACFA website…

  32. John,

    I think your organization looks to be on the right track by looking over your website. Your concept map states it right: ” how a “win-win” might be achieved between our objectives and those of the landowner/developers.”

    Please work with the goverment agencies involved, instead of creating animosity with the decision makers as others have done elsewhere in the county. Keep looking for the win-win solutions instead of always aiming to discredit the gov. officials or finding angles of attack against the developers. These agencies will then be more willing to seek concessions from the developers to offset/mitigate costs or problems for the taxpayers and neighbors more specifically.

  33. Clancy,

    You are very right. I wrote that at a weak moment (i.e. the part that names names–not the part that addresses the intimidating problem we face in tranportation infrastructure, etc.). This has been and remains a big struggle; we (NACFA) have been at this for four years now. Our organization is commited to collaborative solutions. On the other hand, one way or another, we need to get our elected land-use decision makers (either incumbent or newly-elected) to stand up and be counted. They need to quit squabbling (County v. the Cities and visa versa), ratchet up the “weight” given to protecting our quality of life in balance with growth, and do some spade work to defuse the growing impression that they are pro-growth at pretty much any cost.

    I hope this helps…it’s just that patience can wear thin from time to time.


  34. clippityclop
    Oct 21, 2006, 11:32 am

    A significant portion of the funding for Ada County Development Services is provided by application fees from developers. As a taxpayer and concerned neighbor, I wonder if discontinuing this practice and supporting complete objectivity on behalf of the development staff, might not be cheaper on the long run and better for all concerned.

  35. curious george
    Oct 21, 2006, 1:33 pm


    I think the entire budget of the county’s development services department comes from development applications and building permit fees. Another way of saying that it doesn’t use taxpayer money to operate.

    Many cities, by comparison, use such collected fees to underwrite basic public services – making these cities completely dependent on development approvals (and not the tax that will be eventually collected from the improved properties) to provide such basic services as police, fire, and even mayoral and city council salaries.

    What’s more objective? A single department (which has no development approval authority) which can be reduced in size as development declines (with no impact on basic services) – or a system that is completely dependent on rubber-stamping development to get the fees to pay the decision-makers’ salaries?

    This unfortunate latter scenario wouldn’t necessarily spell condemnation for a larger more established city (like Boise) that already has a substantial tax base, but for eager-to-grow smaller cities (Star, Eagle, Kuna) and larger cities trying to grow basic services (Meridian) it means one thing – their development departments are the cities’ cash cows.

    Please note that regardless of where a development gets approved (within city limits, or area of city impact, or out within the “county”), the county’s “cut” of the collected taxes remains exactly the same. This cannot be said of the cities.

    I believe the county’s decision to separate the operational costs for running its development services department from the general fund was a very tax-wise move.

  36. clippityclop
    Oct 21, 2006, 2:29 pm

    “Taxwise move” or no, I think as long as developers are paying the department’s salary, we have a significant public concern for objectivity. And while Ada County Developement Services, per se, does not rule on applications, you and I both well know that the P&Z and Commissioners ask their questions prior to acceptance or denial, to Development Services Staff… staff which have been paid for by the developer. Doesn’t this seem just a little conflicted to you?

    Clancy, I take my citizen involvement with governmental agencies very seriously and respectfully, but I also realize I’m being forced to play with a stacked deck.

  37. curious george
    Oct 21, 2006, 9:30 pm

    We should always be concerned about the objectivity of any public servant. But we should never assume that a staffer automatically goes around acting unethically.

    The best firewall I can think of to ensure such objectivity, at the very highest level of office (in case someone isn’t exactly as ethical as they should be), is to put into place a budgetary wall that keeps development money out of an organization’s general fund.

    Though this possible temptation “may” still exist at a staff level within the county’s organization – the way the cities have structured their departments’ budgets extends the temptation all the way to the upper tiers of office. And, if county staff may be tempted by developer money, keeping a municipal development services department on the general fund does not create a reverse firewall for city staff.

    I think a much more precarious situation exists when an elected official who counts on the funds generated by development to pay for his/her salary (or less nefariously, counts on the money for a portion of the city police department’s budget), can apply pressure on staff to render a favorable decision.

    It’s one thing to lose a job because the funds dried up, it’s quite another to get sacked (and blackballed) by a municipal official because you took an ethical stand by refusing to rubber-stamp a bad development just to get the application and building permit money.

    Look very closely at the various city budgets to see exactly how large this temptation is. I believe a recent mayor in a nearby city even publicly declared that approving development (contrary to the city’s own comprehensive plan, and the county’s comprehensive plan and ordinances) was absolutely necessary to pay for city services.


  38. clippityclop
    Oct 22, 2006, 9:17 am

    My original comments stand. Developers pay the salary of Ada County Development Services staff, which unavoidably calls staff’s objectivity in to question, and disenchants the citizenry with the public hearing process since any questions raised by P&Z or the Commission are referred back to staff for an answer, without independent investigation. This is unacceptable. As a citizen and tax payer, I care more about P&Z/the Commission objectively investigating serious issues raised during the public hearing process than I do about “taxwise moves” (which may lead to disasterous decisions for this county — your thinking here is remarkably shortsighted). What is the purpose of a public hearing if some very serious concerns from the public are not investigated independently? Referring these questions to staff for comment does not cut it for the reasons stated above. This is the very reason that more citizens are not involved in “public” hearings… they feel powerless under this very conflicted system. This process must change, otherwise public hearings are a sham and miss the intent of Idaho statute.

  39. curious george
    Oct 22, 2006, 1:56 pm

    If we assume that corruption is running rampant – that any temptation is succumbed to – then the organizational structure of the cities virtually guarantees that the public hearing process is damaged. Not because the staff person may answer untruthfully on re-direct because they are worried about next week’s paycheck – but because they are worried about their career.

    Of course solutions are abundant. “Remove all decisions from the political process”; this is done in Vancouver, BC where the Mayor & Council have no say in land use decisions – though in a litigeous US this may not work (and may run against our representative democratic sentiments). “Combine all land use decisions into a single regional process”; this is done in the Portland area via the Metro (a regional land use & transportation planning and decision-maker). This latter option was tried in Ada County almost thirty years ago via ACOG (Ada Council of Governments) and resoundly rejected by the electorate, AHCD is the only hold over from that period (and it’s not uniformly loved by growthaphobes).

    It’s still possible that an ACOG-type organization could still work (fully underwritten by tax payer money) – and still stay compliant with the Local Land Use Planning Act state statute. Per the statute the cities could disolve their respective planning & development departments (and commissions) and allow the county to take over the entire process. This would remove the local jingoistic bickering, any funds collected for fees would be redistributed to the respective local community (and spent however they wish), and no staff person could feel threatened by a mayor or councilmember. Each city would still have its own comprehensive plan, yet that plan would never be at odds with the best interests of any other community. Growth decisions would be made on the basis of what is best for the region, not what may be best for a single jurisdiction. Of course to work most smoothly, all transportation planning and development would have to be combined with this county-based development services department. This would inlude ACHD as well as COMPASS (as the federally designated Metropolitian Planning Organization).

    Now all you have to get is the cities and the county to agree to agree. Good luck 😉

  40. George–
    Too much planning and not enough adherence to existing law! The public hearing process is damaged because the builders and developers are paying for favors–check out latest “donors” to county races.

    Those of us who appear at hearings–sometimes into the wee hours of the morning–are given scant minutes. Meanwhile developers make long glitzy presentations and the vast majority of the time obtain concessions not allowed by the code, through a “variance.” It is a helpless feeling to testify knowing the council will do as they please.

    ACHD tries to do a good job, but thanks to Brent Coles and Boise City lobbist we citizens are 80% disenfranchised–legislature passed a “run and elect by district” for ACHD. Should be county wide vote, but must live in the district.

    Jump on the G countywide library idea if you want regionalism. Those extra layers need to be elected–including CCDC.

  41. Clippity, Your statement, “forced to play with a stacked deck.” is your assumption on how this issue will play out. Your thought proccess and decisions will always be skewed when you believe your statement above.

    John P’s organization seems to be on the right track in working with all involved. The opposite of this is It has snide remarks and commentary aimed at both Skyline and the county all over it. Some of his tactics have worked while others have not.

    Thanks to George for talking about the funding for Development Services, I agree with his points. But to further expand, Guardian’s library idea would work very well with a Ada Council of Goverments. Let’s just create an all encompassing agency to govern all – libraries, police, land use, etc…. Forget about the apes and gorilla, here comes King Kong.

  42. clippityclop
    Oct 23, 2006, 10:49 am

    Please point out exactly how the deck is not stacked against public involvement, after reveiwing my last comment (which still stands). I am merely a realist, which is very unlikely to skew my opinion. Please also point out which statements on the Save The Plateau website are untrue. I’m sure Mr. Jones would be happy to correct them.

  43. Clippity, I was trying to point out the different presentation techniques at both websites and not the content.

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