Report From Sun Valley Growth Meet


In their zeal to control the hearts and minds of Valley politicos, the Chamber of Commerce offset a chance to do good with its annual Sun Valley leadership conference.

Not only did they sequester the politicos, most were subjected to party line pro-growth presentations. Our correspondent reports that only two of the 210 attendees even remotely represented the public at large–the North End Neighborhood Assoc. and the Idaho Coalition for Sustainable Communities.

All three Ada Commishes and other officials apparently got snookered into attending a full blown PowerPoint sales pitch for M3’s venture north of Eagle when the schedule got juggled. It was improper all the way around from the scheduling change to the commishes not walking out. Opponents of the project were nowhere to be seen. The unfair advantage of the developer was obvious and illustrates why the GUARDIAN has opposed this event each year.Houses.jpg

There are currently about 20 planned communities in the design or application stage with the ability to put more than 20,000 new homes (50,000 residents) on the Treasure Valley market. Most are aimed at rural areas outside of, often far outside of, current urban boundaries. Just the thought of this causes growthophobes to break out in a rash.

Our GUARDIAN reporter detected a “vicious undercurrent” among the developers who are seeking a uniform set of rules. Many developers are tired of battling the various rules of cities and counties. Others are often playing the politicos against each other to get the best deal.

Citizens buy homes and land in search of “rural lifestyle” only to have the Commishes plop a gigantic subdivision in their back yard. The developers buy land for building close to town and similarly get screwed. The result is not just sprawl, but leapfrog sprawl! Of course the cities all have different zoning rules as well.

As a potential fix, a Blueprint for Growth has been offered up, but it needs to be adopted and adhered to by all the cities and counties in the area as a comprehensive PLAN. GOOD LUCK!

At least one of the smaller study groups wanted to place this so-called Blueprint on the November ballot. Which begs the question: whose ballot? Cities, Counties? Who writes the question and what will it ask? Permission to create yet another level of government? Who enforces the plan if a city fails to obey it? Can the majority impose its will on a minority (small town)?

Until the citizens who pay the bills are actively engaged and afforded the same respect and access granted to the pro growth business and development community, we can expect a sea of rooftops and bumper to bumper traffic throughout the Valley.

Citizens of the Treasure Valley paid hard earned tax money to send politicos 200 miles to a luxury resort conference heavily loaded with pro-growth builders, developers, bankers, and consultants.

They deserved a better return on their investment.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Correct me if I am wrong. M3 is choosing to apply for development with the City of Eagle and not Ada County. So if this is true, there would be no perceived conflict of interest by the Ada County Commishes.

    EDITOR NOTE–If this means there is no further action needed on anything north of Eagle you are correct. If the area remains under Ada Commishes at this time, not so. Why present a plan to a group who has no interest or control over it? Our main point is there were no growthophobes presenting.

  2. Right now, the North Foothills (west of Highway 55) are in Ada County’s rural tier. However, the City of Eagle has been working for months to plan how to put 24,000 homes in that area (see their Foothills Sub-Area Plan under

    Developers like M3 and Suncor (Avimor) want to by-pass Ada County restrictions by going to Eagle, who’s never seen a plan for development it doesn’t LOVE. Amazingly, the County actually is proposing LESS growth for the North Foothills in its comprehensive plan (only 12,000 homes) than is Eagle! Since M3, alone, wants to build 12,000 homes in the North Foothills, the County restrictions don’t work for the developers.

    Therefore, both M3 and Suncor are actively working for an “annexation route” to Eagle–they need to be adjacent to Eagle city limits before they can request annexation. They may get their wish soon, from what foothills residents are hearing.

    Even if M3 and Suncor “do” ask for annexation, the County can say “no” if Eagle doesn’t provide services to the area they plan to annex. Right now, from what we hear, Eagle doesn’t have the money to provide water or sewer to the foothills. The County shouldn’t allow them to annex land for which they’ll provide nothing. (The City of Boise won’t annex land until they CAN provide city services–at least they’re doing it the right way!)

    Rumor has it that Eagle may try to get around this by contracting with United Water to provide water (watch your water rates go up, Boise), and by taking over the “sewage treatment plants” the developers build in their planned communities.

    If 24,000 homes go into the foothills as Eagle wishes, that will completely clog Highway 55 with cars…who will then take State Street or Hill Road (when State is a nightmare) into and out of Boise, or add to the horror otherwise known as Eagle Road.

  3. Sleuth (and ed note) is correct: M3’s application is active with Eagle (next PZ hearing 5/17), contingent on annexation path which would be accomplished by Eagle acquiring 2000 acres of BLM land btwn Eagle and M3 boundaries. This looks to me like M3’s attempt to ratchet up the pressure on Eagle by playing one jurisdiction off the other.

    BUT…as sleuth notes…two subarea plans extant for North Foothills: County at 10-12,000 (PZ set to act tonight) and Eagle’s draft at double that. My question: why is Eagle PZ having hearing on granting M3 entitlement of 5740 units (minimum) to 8150 units on 5/17 when the first Eagle PZ hearing on the subarea plan is 5/14?

    Could it possibly be that M3, true to form, is attempting to steamroller Eagle before the community gets a voice on how many total units should be in the North Foothills? Looks like an end run around the subarea plan to me.

    The traffic implications alone of the M3 proposal are of nightmare proportions for SHs 16 and 55, as well as State/44, Beacon Light, Floating Feather and South Eagle Road. At M3’s (suspect, based on trip capture of 30%) estimate, 95,000 car trips added every day…and they’re working on the assumption that SH 16 will be a four lane. (Yeah…right; not in my lifetime.)

    They propose no improvements to S. Eagle Road, although their traffic study shows dumping tens of thousands of cars there every day.

    These are not exactly friends of the Treasure Valley.

    But I digress…what the devil was the deal with M3 pitching the County before applying, before hearings?

    EDITOR NOTE–Our guy seems to think it was just a bumbling effort by all concerned, mostly caused by schedule shuffling.

  4. Clippityclop
    Apr 26, 2007, 3:43 pm

    As taxpayers, we should demand that every public cent spent to send three Ada County Commissioners to Sun Valley to listen to a developer infomercial be repaid. I also feel that it was highly inappropriate and prejudicial for them NOT to walk out of a presentation by M3, even if it were due to “schedule bumbling.”

    The North Ada County Foothills Sub Area Plan, which directly affects M3, goes before the Ada County P&Z Commission tonight, then will go on to the AC Board of Commissioners. This is very irregular, completely unfair to the public and warrants further scrutiny. The Commissioners’ lapses in assuring objectivity, and the developers’ and Eagle’s disregard Blueprint for Good Growth and Communities in Motion, have become intolerable. Voters and citizens asleep, are you taking note and waking up?

  5. Alicia Ritter
    Apr 26, 2007, 4:25 pm

    Does this correspondent have a name, a real name?

    EDITOR NOTE–Yes. The correspondent was one of the 210 paying customers, but has asked for anonymity. Reprisals can be costly. If you have any FACTUAL questions please let us know. We are trying to confirm if Eagle’s mayor got the pitch from M3. If you can help, please do. There is no mug shot on the Eagle official website for the reporter to reference.

  6. Photo of Mayor Merrill at

  7. “There are currently about 20 planned communities in the design or application stage with the ability to put more than 20,000 new homes (50,000 residents) on the Treasure Valley market.”

    I notice most of the writers have fallen under the spell of the developers on at least one point: saying they build “homes.”

    Nope; they build houses … or condos or apartment buildings or trailer parks or whatever. None of those things are “homes” until someone moves into them and gradually turns them into homes.
    As the old saying goes, “It takes a heap of livin’ to make a house a home.”

    You may also have noticed that, while sometimes “used cars” are for sale, you’ll never see real estate folks advertise “used houses” or “used homes.” (They say, “preowned” — perhaps hoping you won’t notice that means the place actually has been used before.

    An aside: I liked a sign I saw on a auto lot somewhere out toward Weiser or somesuch one time. It advertised “experienced cars.”

    So, writers, tell it like it is: Developers want to build a zillion (or however many” more houses (which they hope people will buy, which, if they do, many will turn into “homes.”)

  8. As one an attendees of the conference, and a person who talked to the Guardian before this piece was published, let me out myself as “a” source. I also notice other “voices” in the piece. I am sufficiently familiar with the Guardian’s desire for accuracy to not be surprised in that respect. I will verify that what the Guardian reported did happen. He may have even underplayed some of the points.

    Let there be no mistake, this was a conference whose need was, and continues to be paramount. The ramifications of all these communities are every bit as significant as the Atlanta Gold Mine that was the subject of Mayor Bieter’s recent town hall meeting.

    The Atlanta gold mine presents the possibility of pollution in the Boise River. Growth in general, and many of these planned communities in particular, promise, with absolute certainty, to affect traffic congestion, air pollutions, water (quality, price, and availability), school placement and funding, property taxes, local option sales taxes, mass transit and a host of other issues.

    To that end, the Chamber gets bonus points for holding the conference. They also get them taken away for holding it in Sun Valley. This was a meeting that should have been held in one of the valley’s major auditoriums, with the lights of the media shining in, and ready access granted to the general public.

    In my mind, the Guardian could have made a much bigger case about the backbeat of frustration, even anger and disgust, with which the development community views the local regulatory matrix. Every city and every county has its own comp plan. They compete with each other, openly and not so openly, on a variety of levels. The rules are, at best, amorphous and subjective. Enforcement is, at best, illogical and inconsistent. Businesses, developers, and ordinary citizens are all victimized by this situation.

    The easiest way to get heads nodding in agreement at this gig was to state the obvious. Namely, the valley needs a good, consistent, region wide, comprehensive plan. It needs to be as detailed as possible. It needs to be rolled deeply into the code of all the various cities and counties. It needs to be rigidly, consistently, and impartially enforced.

    And, it needs to happen soon.

    Businesses, developers, and regular citizens all want it to happen. November would be about right.

    Last November 2 out of every 3 county commissioners who represented the status quo lost their jobs. For the politicians who can read, that is about as clear a message as I have seen.

  9. Please Guardian, would you or someone please tell me the presumed definition of “planned community?”
    It sure looks like sprawl connected by an inadequate transportation system to me.

    Just look at Hidden Springs for example – one way in and one way out – a two lane road which between Hill Road and the dump is dominated by speeding garbage trucks. I’d like to know the actual number of auto trips that are generated each day from Hidden Springs into the rest of the valley.

    Then we will see another mess with Avimor loading Highway 55 – I expect it will become another Eagle Road, which I refuse to drive on.

    EDITOR NOTE–For all practical purposes it is a way around a law that sets minimum size of lots at several acres outside a city. By creating their own “community” with sewer, water, and streets, developers are able to leapfrog their subdivisions. Hidden Springs is no longer a planned community–that was just to get approval.

  10. Maybe someone can help me understand a point here. Why is the event in Sun Valley not affected by the open meeting law that got the county commishes in so much hot water earlier?

    EDITOR NOTE–Todd, the short version is that they are not meeting to “deliberate” anything on which they will have to make a “decision .” The meeting itself is legal, but getting information from one side of a matter they are likely to have to decide or is pending becomes “ex parte” communication and it is inappropriate.

  11. What a bunch of “stuff.” I’m thinking about moving to Sweden except that I probably am too old to learn another language.

  12. Editor Dave…..You had a correspondent at the wine & cheese growth fest?? May we have a name please ? (I hope they were chamber members so that they got the $15 discount on meeting costs.)

  13. To simplify this issue. These developers are intent on turning our still semi-rural community into a concrete jungle. The People need to become actively involved in what their local politicians are doing/not doing and demand that a ” set of LAWS based on strict infratructural needs” along with a guarantee that all community and emergency services will be available ( again by law) to be implimented by all citys and towns in the area so developers have to pony up their money before turning our beautiful area into an asphalt disgrace!

  14. Fred Notingham
    Apr 30, 2007, 9:51 am

    Was Jim Tibbs at this conference?


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