ITD Demands Halt On Avimor


In a strongly worded letter to Ada County’s Development Services department, the Idaho Transportation Department has requested NO BUILDING PERMITS be issued at the Avimor planned community on Highway 55 north of Eagle.

The ITD is particularly serious about stopping further development until access issues are resolved, despite moves on the part of developer SunCor to obtain various temporary approaches to the busy north-south highway.

In fact, ITD has made it clear to SunCor that access to the public highway will be limited to temporary use and is restricted to agriculture and power company access only. One application was turned down June 8, but SunCor claimed they had “verbal permission” to build a right of way approach which ITD has declared illegal.

In a December 6 letter to SunCor, ITD demanded that all orders be in writing and declared the approaches to be “not permitted.” The developer was given a January 31 deadline to get the permit violation cleaned up or face state removal of the illegal approach and a lawsuit to recover costs of the removal.

It appears to the GUARDIAN the action by ITD has been prompted by two intelligent groups converned with Foothills developments. The North Ada County Foothills Association and the Dry Creek Rural Neighborhood Association produced a “white paper” which offered some common sense concerns and recommendations to ITD last month. Judging from ITD’s flurry of letters, they took the activists seriously.

It what can only be cause for celebration among growthophobes, ITD demanded that SunCor provide specific dates, construction plans, and a performance bond for the cost of all highway improvements including AN OVERPASS AND DETAILS PERTAINING TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE INTERCHANGE!

Furthermore, ITD does NOT approve of a temporary signal or a center “refuge or acceleration lanes” on Highway 55 for left turns.

What all this means is that Idaho’s Transportation Department needs a big pat on the back for not caving to development interests. In essence they are telling Ada County to refrain from issuing building permits and SunCor to “Do the right thing–and pay for an interchange overpass–or not use the citizen’s highway.

The issue of access to public highways is a major stumbling block for developers–and Ada County Development Services. Without the access, these subdivisions are unable to proceed. The Cliffs along Highway 21 being developed by Skyline Development has similar issues which are unresolved.

(permission to reproduce this story with credit to BOISEGUARDIAN.COM is granted)

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Finally, another govt. agency trying to stand up for the public interest. An early Christmas present.

  2. Dave: Good deal…I hope the ITD will hold fast and not be sucked in by the sweet talking developers. These guys obviously think we are a bunch of idiots and I hope we will prove them wrong.

    On a little side track, I noticed that Eagle mayor, Nancy Merrill, is upset that Eagle can’t take its own road taxes and do as it pleases with the money. She must think Eagle is a “planned community” where all the Eaglites live, work, and play in our little town, and never venture into the rest of Ada County. A story in Valley Times indicated she would like the city of Eagle to have more control over these monies, but then it went on to state that she was worried about stop lights on SH 55, otherwise known as Eagle Road, south of State Street, and just SH 55 north of State Street, (the two sections are connected by the State Street bypass, also known as SH 44) which highway is not controlled by the ACHD, but is controlled by ITD.

    It concerns me that my mayor doesn’t seem to know who has jurisdiction over what roads. Or perhaps the article was wrong. Whichever way, we have to accept that Eagle is a bedroom community, not a planned community, whatever that is.

    By the way, when I was at the County Courthouse for jury duty this month I noticed that Ada County is advertising for a “Planned Community Specialist.” Or something to that effect. We’re doomed.

  3. Pat, pat, pat!!!!!

  4. Do we say maybe a bit of intelligence in the State of Idaho?

  5. Just an interesting fact I think should be brought up for all the growthophobes. 65% of Ada County is owned by the federal government. If you take all of the river and flood zone into account it is more like 70%. Meaning approximately 70% of Ada County’s land cannot be built on. I some how don’t think that is good enough for north enders and growthophobes.

    As for ITD, wouldn’t they have had to already sign off on this before approval? Isn’t it a little late in the game? Is this just a last ditch effort appealing to whomever will listen? I think if this too in the end will be resolved in a way that will only piss off all north enders and growthophobes. Oh well, good luck on the next cause.

    As far as the Eagle mayor, she is clueless as to how government is supposed to work. She takes an idea that SHE has and magnifies it by 200%, then tries to illegally and without input pass it through the city council. It always irritates me to find out what she is trying to pass under the radar. Oh well, I guess the alternative is I could be living in Nampa.

  6. On the weekend, two people were killed on State Street near Eagle, apparently trying to turn left from the “suicide lane” onto a side street. And many remember the family that was wiped out on Beacon Light trying to get onto SH 55. This is what the planned community developers want to give us all along Hwy 55 heading north.

    ITD needs to be commended for taking a stance (these developers have BIG bucks and BIG lobbyists). ITD need our support to continue to demand that SAFE interchanges be built before the homes. How many of us need to become road kill because developers don’t want to pay for the cost of road improvements?

  7. Clippityclop
    Dec 18, 2006, 11:26 am

    Yes, Guardian, there is a Santa Claus, and his other name is ITD. I cannot praise this agency enough for standing up for public safety and functionality on SH 55.
    Apart from obvious safety concerns, allowing anything but controlled access on that highway would essentially negate an already completed, multi-million dollar project (the Horseshoe Bend hill), one that likely involved federal dollars.
    Snoop, you’d think that Ada County Development Services, the County Commissioners and SunCor would have resolved this issuemuch earlier in the process (its now part of the development agreement) as it is an ever-present reality, but that’s not the way the process works. The Cliffs will be faced with the same issue if the Ada County Commishes vote to approve it, and the public has brought this up from day one.
    Your comments bring up an excellent point: why not declare a moratorium on preliminary plat approvals until these issues are resolved? This is a gigantic public safety concern, whether you agree with development or not.
    ITD, to their extreme credit, is taking a very responsible role and should be commended by every parent whose kid drives back and forth on that highway on their way to the U of I.

  8. Anyone interested in more detail of the looming SH 55 disaster can see the traffic white paper at, under “updates and alerts” near the bottom of the list.

    As the NACFA member who generated the white paper, I point out that the traffic estimates are very conservative…assuming no impact from Gem County (1300 houses being built at Black Canyon Reservoir alone) because Gem planners assert all their traffic will use an expanded SH 16. Those who follow the issue will know that, as of this date, the state maybe has enough money to complete the environmental work for the 16 expansion. Funding for design fees and construction costs? Hmmm…where will we get that?

    Furthermore, the traffic counts shown in the white paper assume 7.5 vpd per unit built (accounting for the asserted “trip capture” rate), when the standard measure is 10 and COMPASS estimates TV avg at 13.

    The NACFA and DCRNA assns took the conservative approach in an effort to make the point bulletproof. And though every developer active in the North Foothills got a copy of the white paper, not one came squawking about the traffic being exaggerated.

    This is real, people. Unless something happens fast, “gridlock” doesn’t begin to describe 55–even in the short term.

  9. Yay for ITD! And for The Guardian, for its report.
    What a concept — get things done right before building a zillion houses somewhere.

    I don’t suppose there’s any chance ACHD could learn something from this? Think how much nicer Boise and the surrounding area could be if it weren’t jammed solid with too many cars on roads that aren’t ready to serve them.

    As for the Eagle mayor — sounds like she went to the same training class as a number of Boise, ACHD and state officials, eh? (I think they all skipped some lessons on ethics, but sure got through the “do whatever you want and stick the taxpayers for it any way you can” class with flying colors.

    EDITOR NOTE–In defense of ACHD, they have mandated a traffic plan for the M3 development north of Eagle and they refuse to be a “broker” to obtain access lane for the Cliffs along Highway 21.

  10. Massive growth is here to stay, so a long term fix is needed for handling these types of situations. This fix must come from the legislature, because ITD needs mechanisms for dealing with developers. so infrastructure can be paid for and built before the housing starts. Impact fees for ITD should be addressed to handle the downstream effects of the traffic.

    Separately developers need to be able to create bonds attached to the lots, so they can pay for the costly grade separated intersections or bridges. We would probably have an East Parkcenter bridge if that were available to the Harris Ranch developers. Instead, we have a fancy subdivision. Just as ITD has required a performance bond of Suncor, make that part of the legislation for developers.

    EDITOR NOTE–Probably no surprise that one of the SunCorp principals is the same guy who didn’t build a bridge at East Park Center as part of his Harris Ranch development. Sound familiar. “Trust me.”

  11. Wait until they put a mini strip mall on that section of the Highway and a Jacksons. I bet there will be a light there stopping all the traffic when the slime developers have their way with the local politicos. The light on 55 @ State Street is bad enough along with the other one.

  12. So… when will the new ITD Director be announced, as part of Governor-elect Otter’s realignment?

  13. More in defense of ACHD: They’re insisting on a master road plan for the entire North Foothills (not just M3 but also SunCor (west of 55), Kastera and Connolly). Franden testified at the second M3 P & Z hearing in Eagle, urging the city to hold approvals until the roads for the entire area are planned and a developer funding mechanism established. He’s also on record that North Foothills developers will be assessed extraordinary impact fees. Franden’s been way out in front on this….for months. ITD is, for my money, following the ACHD lead.

    Now let’s talk schools. M3 alone will generate the requirement for 13 new schools up here and they’re making a big deal about donating land for same. Who pays for the buildings? You guessed it–residents of the Meridian school district who are already looking at new bonds every other year for something like 10 years just to catch up with current enrollment. And the tax hikes just keep on comin’…

  14. ITD is just insisting the developer get his road access finalized before buidling. Sounds like a routing common sense requirement to me and yet it’s being treated like the Second Coming Of Christ. ITD is basically saying “resolve your road access issues or you shouldn’t build any homes.” Okey-dokey. Aside from the provocatively worded post, I don’t see what the big upset here is.

  15. New ITD director (anounced late last week and a promotion from within) is Pamela Lowe (replacing Eckern).
    Anyone hearing rumors about the candidates for chair of the board, replacing Bruneel? Word is Winder’s not interested.

  16. Congratulations to the ITD,N.ADA COunty foothills association and the Dry Creek rural neighborhood assoc. on their moves to stop Sun Cor ( Avimor) and their County Commish buddies from building another montrosity that will not have ” Safe” access to our public highways. The question in my mind is why didn’t Ada county development services and the County Commissioners have the safety of the community in mind themselves? Isn’t that what they were elected to do? Was there too much money there for our Commissioners to act responsibly? This scenario really shines a light on the continued irrresponsibility in our local government officials and how the people can send them a quick,much needed, WAKE UP CALL!!

    EDITOR NOTE–This will no doubt get “worked out,” but the fact remains they are forging ahead with preliminary work without resolving the issues. Too fast with too little resolved.

  17. Clippityclop
    Dec 18, 2006, 5:53 pm

    In answer to bikeboy, Pamela Lowe has been the interim director at ITD since September and was just named the Director. She was appointed by the Board. This is not a governor-appointed position, like the head of IDWR. Congratulations to Director Lowe — may she continue to champion public safety for all Idahoans.

  18. After reading the latest updates at, I am a little confused. That organization reiterates 3 times in the Dec. 11 update that “Suncor is leading the effort to address the regional highway issues”. Obviously a project of this size is very complex and probably figuring out the government red tape is just as complex. The “white paper” goes on to explain in the lack of forsight by ITD and COMPASS for exploring this issue, as well as the lack of an ITD funding mechansim for dealing with developers.

    Traffic will be the singlemost important issue/pain associated with growth. Instead of fighting many battles with each preliminary plat, why not just have one at the Statehouse. By providing ITD with impact fees and developers with bond creation for infrastructure, the money could be in place for the necessary infrastructure.

    One note, I think the North Ada County Foothills Association should be congratulated on the cooperative and unconfrontational approach in working with developers and Ada County.

  19. To Wonk Vader: The County Commissioners are saying (in “deed” if not in words) that they don’t care what the cost to the public will be regarding traffic, safety, and cars going through established Boise and Eagle neighborhoods because major roadways are being clogged by new developments. They seem to be able to do nothing but give the go-ahead to developers to build (their explanation being that if they don’t, they might be sued–oh, horrors!).

    They gave Avimor their approval without access resolved, and I fully expect they’ll do the same with The Cliffs on Wednesday night, despite everyone knowing what a mess the traffic access situation is. (You should read the testimony about the bridge on Hwy 21 and problems it will have if the access isn’t properly handled. It’s very scary.) I do find it encouraging that ITD is willing to stand up and say “STOP–let’s do this right.” Lately, ACHD has also been making positive statements along the same lines as ITD’s letters, but so far, their action has been to go along with the Commissioners and “okay” what the developers propose. Hopefully, they’ll take courage from ITD’s stance.

  20. Have you ever Googled the word growthophobes.
    Seems it’s a made up word only used in Idaho.
    Thought you might be interested.

    EDITOR NOTE–Welcome to the GUARDIAN. We also claim “growthophiles.” Although not original, we also use commishes, team dave, councilors, and guv.

  21. Clippityclop
    Dec 19, 2006, 8:44 am

    I wouldn’t confuse NACFA’s graciousness with endorsement. Make no mistake that the developers along SH 55 have formed an association to address the problem because they have no other option. Further, if you re-read the white paper, no one accuses ITD, COMPASS or ACHD of lack of foresight. It is merely a statement of fact that this area had not been anticipated for dense development now proposed. Both John Franden of ACHD and the Director of Planning for COMPASS have publically testified to this. And huge improvements to SH 55 are not in ITD’s STIP. Recall that when the developers bought this land, the development rights were that of the current zoning, rural preservation (1 to 40).

    Dense development along SH 55 will require hundreds of millions of dollars in developer-funded improvements. If developer wants to play, he’s gotta have the horsepower to pony up because neither ITD nor the public will provide a bailout. That’s just the cost of doing business. And simple reality.

  22. ITDs position and the analysis by the G put a lot into perspective on this issue. Perhaps LOGIC is creeping into the process.

    Bad, bad idea on the developer bonds. That only encourages development and growth by allowing the developers to finance their nefarious acts on the backs of future homeowners. It is inherently worse than credit card debt. Akin to allowing Ford to manufacture cars through loans (taxes, liens) on any future owners of said vehicles. Highly speculative.

  23. So why doesn’t ITD help out when the City Council of Boise approves projects that overload our streets? i know – they don’t have control over it – maybe they should.

    Funny how the mayor and Council are happy about ITD stepping in here but yet they create the very same problems for virtually every neighborhood in the city!

  24. Logic,

    ITD’s position is not a new one. They have had the ability to “hold” building permits in any application that has direct access to any of the State Highways for many a year. I will give them credit for finally finding themselves capable of participating in the growth conversation. They have been absent for quite some time. Clancy’s idea of infrastructure bonding is a much better way of providing for “off-site” infrastructure than Idaho uses today. In Ada County (and state wide for ITD) the government is not allowed to condition developers with more than their share of off-site improvements. Meaning that ACHD/ITD can only require someone to improve the road that directly borders the development property. Creates a pretty disjointed approach to all infrastructure improvements. If you read the proposed public improvement district legislation, it would allow your local governments to require and control a much wider array of improvements. Will it be financed by homeowners, you bet. One positive for a homeowner, the property tax would be tax deductible as where principle on a loan with a higher lot price would not. Either way landowner pays for it. Of course, we all do seem to like the way we do business today…no need to explore something different.

  25. A Team 88–
    I would not oppose the “off site” financing-bonding idea as long as the state or local government is not left in a position to guarantee the bonds. It would seem Logical to me for the PID to fund infrastructure improvements as long as that did NOT include roads, sewers, and water within a subdivision or planned community. If that were allowed it would simply encourage develoment and underfunded developers.

  26. Response to Robert on “Growthophobe,”

    If “growthophobe” means anything, it means one who supports a living environment with a quality of life. “High quality of life” and “growth” are dichotomous; therefore, those who love and support the growth in Boise, ironically, should not be living here. Rather, they should be wallowing in love and admiration for and desirous of the city life and all its “growth” attributes (e.g., traffic, smog, congestion, crime and high cost of living) of NYC or LA.

  27. As “A Team” said we can change the way we do business and start letting growth pay for the necessary infrastructure or we can leave it be and the battle goes on.

    Do people actually think by battling the developers on each and every point, that we accomplish stopping growth? No. Can we work together to accomplish smart growth and meet in the middle? Yes.

    Looking at the conservative numbers that COMPASS approved in 2002 roughly here is the population projections for Ada county.

    2000- 300,904 census
    2010- 402,949
    2015- 455,493
    2025 – 491,520

    In the next 18 years we need to cram another 100,000 plus people into Ada county alone. It is time to work together and create the financial tools needed to pay for the infrastructure improvements as we go. The developers do not need a free pass in the process, just the tools to get the job done right the first time.

    Hopefully in the process, the word “Growthophobe” will disappear and everybody will become SmartGrowther’s. Boise has been found and nobody is going to stop the population wave coming our way.

  28. Logic,
    Can’t have a bond without a guarantee. Who goes broke more often…developer or local gov’t. This whole process would require a little faith in the bond market underwriters. I don’t even want to try and understand their formula for success. Just know I don’t see that formula fail too often (I’ve never seen it fail). The way that last years proposed legislation read, Cities and Counties would have complete control of where money is spent. The local gov’t becomes the “Commishes” for the newly formed Improvement District. They can still require the same improvements on site today, but could also pay for improvements off-site. Example…Avimor (SunCor) pays for all on-site improvements with their own capital (Lot Cost)…then County or City (which ever approves development) could require additional improvements like road improvements at HWY 44 and HWY 55 that developer pays for using the bond market (property tax to the subdivision). It enables the developer to provide more “front end” improvements than we get through today’s process. Probably not perfect by any means, but gets us closer than sticking our head in the sand.

  29. Clippityclop
    Dec 19, 2006, 11:45 pm

    Give it a break, A Team 88. That piece of legislation was the biggest developer giveaway to ever come down the pike and everybody knows it. My advice? Don’t buy property on speculation and apply for a zoning change if you ain’t got the horsepower to cover all the costs of development. It’s not ITD’s and the public’s/homeowner’s responsibilty to make developers very, very wealthy just because the County approved an application. They need to gamble with their own money, please.

  30. Vik thanks I needed that.
    Make’s me proud to be a Growthophobe.
    Now how does one stop the destruction of our once beautiful state.

    Once it’s gone all the greedy developers will be on to greener pasture’s

  31. OT: I’d like to learn more about the Dry Creek Association. Are they the ones driving the LACK of paving on Dry Creek Rd?

  32. Clippityclop
    Dec 20, 2006, 10:47 am

    As far as I understand it, Hidden Springs was supposed to pave Dry Creek Rd as part of their arrangement with ACHD. Frank Martin, who is the developer in charge of Hidden Springs, stated this summer that the responsibility for paving that will now fall on another developer, presumably the developer of Dry Creek Ranch (JMM Dry Creek, LLC). I’ve confirmed that the Dry Creek Rural Neighborhood Association has had no involvement in this issue.

  33. Nothing like seeing first hand what Planned Community developers promise and then do…or should I say “don’t do”? Hidden Springs promised to pave Dry Creek Road and to provide vans for commuters into Boise. Wasn’t done.

    They did build a fire station, though. Only no one mans it. And, oh my!, even the Ada County Commissioners questioned why Harris Ranch’s wildlife mitigation plan isn’t working (at The Cliffs hearing 12/20/06). And for sure, we can’t forget the promised East Park Center Bridge. Isn’t it lovely? All promises that aren’t kept once the developers get what they want. Amazing, isn’t it?

  34. Welcome to the world of Community Planning Sleuth. SOP is to promise anything, and everything, to the public during the public meetings and then “do the real deal” after they go home. Fun isn’t it!

  35. 88 mm Anti-Tank
    Dec 26, 2006, 2:56 pm

    Naomi/Clippityclop. It is my understanding that Hidden Springs had indeed worked out an agreement with ACHD that they would improve and pave Dry Creek when traffic volumes reached 600 vpd. Latest ACHD traffic count is 576 vpd. If Hidden Springs is not shucking off this responsibility to the Dry Creekers, it may point out the advisability of requiring payment in advance, perhaps in the way of bonding. As Ronnie Ray Guy put it “Trust, but verify.”

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: