City Government

City Mum On Financing Vision

Boise City Councilor Alan Shealy should be proud of his Planning and Zoning Department for being “pro-active” with the color drawing and unquestioning text on the front page of the Daily Paper Tuesday.
The city has put forth a major planning effort in the area of 30th Street between State and Fairview for the past year or two. Probably spent better than a million dollars with consultants, helicopter rides, and neighborhood meetings.

They are “marketing” a new park to be developed among the gravel pits behind the former Ford dealer along with a road project to widen 30th St.

If reports are correct, they have the neighborhood on board–and why not with the prospect of soaring property values brought about by a landscaped boulevard with light rail, a major municipal park with fishing, kayaking, soccer fields, and all that parks offer?

Shealy has publicly favored a strategy of getting the city’s message out first–especially in the Statesman–so they don’t have to react to the GUARDIAN…actually he said “the photographer and his blog.”

Here’s the deal. The city has done the right thing working with Ada County Highway District and the neighborhood to come up with a “vision.” They have created the buzz, they have pretty pictures of “concepts” and predictions of increased business and assorted urban lifestyle upgrades. The low income 30th Streeters will somehow get to stay in the new upscale area and drink latte at their own “Hyde Park.”

What the City has NOT done is come up with a financing plan or full disclosure on the issue of tax increment financing–that means diverting all the taxes on IMPROVEMENTS in an urban renewal district to the District itself for “infrastructure” improvements.

The net result of such schemes means those of us who live outside the District pay for the police, fire, etc. in the refurbished neighborhood. That’s how it works downtown. The property owners pay taxes on their improvements and appreciation, BUT it all goes to the CCDC, not Boise City, ACHD, Ada County, or Boise Schools.

Neighborhood improvement is a great idea, but not at the expense of the rest of the city. We already make up the difference for lost tax revenues on those exclusive downtown condos, BoDo, and the Front Street complex. Team Dave has publicly hinted at using tax increment financing for the 30th Street area.

The GUARDIAN gave the P&Z spin meister every opportunity to declare the project to be (A) private endeavor under city direction, (B) funded by tax increment bonds, (C) paid by increased taxes–anything. He would not commit, calling the financing “part of the planning process.” He also would not rule out any of the options.

We think it disingenuous to spend time and public money creating a dream–and a vision is certainly a dream–and refuse to make public any method of creating a reality of that dream.

It may be “pro-active” public relations, but any claim of “This is what the public wants” rings hollow.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Joe in Boise
    Oct 30, 2007, 4:07 pm

    If the property values go too high in the 30th St. neighborhoods as a result of all of these improvements, those people can just move in to one of those 1,200 sqaure foot condo’s downtown, if they can come up with a half a million or so!

    Or, we can create a new affordable neighborhood in close to Garden City where we can move those displaced by this progress and we can call it “Homeless Boise” or “HOBO” for short.

  2. Joe makes a good point. Will the renters suddenly begin earning higher wages if the road is widened?

    How about doing the park, widening the road and–through free market investment subject to normal property tax levies–let the neighborhood improve at its own rate. It seems LOGICAL that increased values would lead to increased revenues for the city.

    Why is the city hiding the money part or did they go shopping without knowing the limit on their credit card?

  3. It’ll never happen, of course. But if it did, everybody who lives there now would have to move out as their property taxes skyrocket based on the increased “value” of their homes — a value which, of course, exists only if they sell the houses … and go where? to HOBO, I suppose.

    And if that picture at the top is the “vision” and “dream,” I’d say it’s more of a nightmare!
    Could they possibly jam buildings any closer together? Looks much like some much older cities’ slums.

    And what a fire trap!

  4. Who is “P&Z spin meister”?

    The article ( is pretty wishy-washy.. it mentions that “some” fear an end to affordablility, and that affordable housing “is” key. (The problem is there’s no way to tell who’s saying those things. It may be the author, it may be the planners, it may be the residents… who knows.)

    As for facts, according to the paper, the median income in the area is 39K compared to 54K for Boise, and owner-occupancy is the lowest in Boise at 37%. And, public hearing is tentatively Dec 10th.

    EDITOR NOTE–Wade, you got it. The P&Z spinner is Jerry Todd. Nice enough guy, but no way was he going to say yes or no to anything! Making that public will probably get him a raise.

  5. Grumpy ole guy
    Oct 30, 2007, 8:21 pm

    To me the “failure” here is in making the plans available and an explanation of the rationale for such a development area. I’d like to have a fuller discussion, made openly and honestly, of ALL facets of this proposal.

    EDITOR NOTE–In defense of the city (did I really say that?) they are aiming for citizen “input” with the solicitation in the Daily Paper and at hearings. However, they truly have dropped the ball when it comes to telling us about the financing…like a car dealer. “I will talk to the sales manager because I know you really want it. We can work something out.”

  6. Clip the Statesman article and save it. I believe time will tell that its fiction at best. It portrays or sells a “lifestyle” just like any other land scheme promotion that will not resemble the final product. There is no such thing as a pedestrian friendly development of that magnitude with the roads planned for the area. Instead it will add to congestion, add to pollution and add to the density as it destroys open space. And guess what? The tax payers pay for it, while private developers profit. Another Hyde Park?

  7. Why does the guardian seem to be fixated on “financing?” The 30th St Master Plan is more a scenario than a mandate and has to do with future land use. That is, should property X or Y or Z be up-zoned and for what purpose. As far as I know, nobody in the city government has said anything about a new urban renewal district for the 30th St area as the guardian seems to imply. Does the guardian have some inside info on this?

    However, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if such a proposal was made, probably after the election. I did hear something to that effect (new URD) and that it may be coupled with the sunsetting of CCDC’s downtown district.

    Shirley Randolph, former Veteran’s Park Neighborhood Association President and others have been working on making the old Consolidated Concrete plant property into a park for 15 years. Parks and Rec acquired some of that land as far back as 1993, but the last piece to fall into place was purchased with the aid of a $1 million donation by the Simplots back in December 2003.

    Here’s an interesting essay from the law firm that facilitated the transaction :

    ACHD has had plans to construct a 30th St extension for years. It was on their 5 year plan back in the 90s and then fell off. Then it was back again and then delayed at the request of Boise City. Kind of funny that Bieter and company complain about ACHD spending money outside of Boise when ACHD would be spending several million on the 30th Extension right now if they hadn’t delayed it.

    With respect to the property tax issue, correlation is not causation! Why can’t we have lower property taxes as well as higher property values? We can. How? It’s beyond the scope of this comment and maybe someday I’ll get around to writing a detailed essay on the subject. Or better yet, those of you who are paid to handle such matters should write about it. Anti-tax legislators, are you listening?

    EDITOR NOTE–My inside info is about the same as yours. I agree totally with you that a new road, adjustments to the zoning and a new park will increase property values. I just want the taxes from those increases to go to the general fund instead of diverting the revenues to the likes of CCDC or a similar agency. Other commenters raise valid points about displacing current residents.

  8. Give Credit
    Oct 31, 2007, 8:50 am

    Let’s give the city some credit for actually planning development. Look around the valley and you can see just how unique this is. The idea that there is something being hidden or that others will pay is a bit far fetched. We pay every day for poor planning around the valley (that sucking sound you hear is Boise money flowing out of town to fund road projects in Meridian). In addition, we all benefit when our community is enhanced. If I used Mr. Frazier’s logic then I should be unhappy when the city adds a park that is not directly in my area. After all, that is tax money that is not going to me and mine. A good plan will reap benefits for the comunity and the private sector will only add to that with additional investment.

  9. I seem to remember reading an article in the last year or so about CCDC. The article talked about how their mandate was nearly complete in the original area that CCDC was responsible for (downtown) and that they were looking to expand to the renewal area to the west. That dovetails nicely with this new plan. If I am correct, that does imply public financing of this new “Vision.”

  10. Give Credit–
    Right! Give credit to Dave. He commends the joint planning with ACHD, calls neighborhood improvement a “great idea.”

    All he did was responsibly question the financing and no one will tell him (us) the plan. A realtor won’t even talk to you unless you are able to afford the houses he shows you. Read the posting again and see if he against anything other than taking the area off the tax rolls ala CCDC. Talk about credit!

  11. curious george
    Oct 31, 2007, 11:31 am

    The Guardian’s jumped the gun.

    The “vision” of the 30th Street area is just that – a vision. It isn’t even the beginning of a plan until it’s adopted. That the city opted to cooperate with the Statesman’s article (perhaps even prompted and encouraged it) isn’t a surprise given the high quality of the work.

    The city has staged the planning process to first secure public support for (and the public’s participation in the creating of) the vision. It’s premature to narrow down all the potentially viable financing mechanisms that could be used to catalyze the re-development of the area.

    If the vision does get approved by the city (P&Z Commission and then City Council – both bodies taking public testimony at their hearings), the next step is to start into the specific masterplanning of the individual redevelopment nodes – that is the time to start looking at the financing options. That’s the time for Guardian-like groups to ask questions, when there’s answers to provide to those questions.

    Give Credit’s comment that we are all already subsidizing bad planning rings true. Because bad planning buries the costs (and increased tax implications) in agency O&M and incremental capital improvement budgets, it makes a small target for critics. Here’s a potentially worthwhile project – and the planners, volunteers, residents, and agency officials involved had the guts to hang a huge target around their neck knowing that at this point it is very easy for naysayers to sabotage such an effort.

    How does bad planning happen (bad planning that forces the creation of special agencies & efforts to deal with the long-term negative impacts of such bad planning misdirection – like an Urban Renewal Agency, or Special Taxing District)? One aspect of the answer is obvious – it’s the critics of laudable efforts (like this one) who cry chicken little when any agency tries to do competent planning.

    If the Guardian wants to ensure a perpetual presense of CCDC in Boise (or anything else that will require a special influx of public money to correct years neglect), continue being critical of efforts like this and demanding answers to questions before those answers can possibly be prepared – and then cite the lack of answers as “proof” of some conspiracy. Your article implies that there’s some secret financial plan that has yet to be “revealed” (as if there’s one one ready on the shelf and there’s a hide-the-ball conspiracy against the “photographer and his blog”). This isn’t the case (though I can’t speak for Alan Shealy).

    I’ve lived in this area for the past 15 years, I attended the Open House, and was afforded the opportunity to participate in the public work sessions to create the vision (but like many folks I couldn’t due to a too-busy schedule). I like the plan, but more yet I like the participatory way the plan was put together – I even like the way the city is carefully considering the vision BEFORE it starts into the detailed masterplanning process (when all the financial questions will recieve their due attention).

    My one big concern is the potential of displacing the poor and lower-income residents in the area. Too much of the planning efforts in Idaho (not just Boise) focus on protecting the rights of property owners – as if they are some separate (special) class of citizen. Guess what, they aren’t – and further, it’s a violation of the Idaho and U.S. Constitutions to treat them as such. When the project gets to its next step we’ll need all the accountants (and investigative reporters) out their to make sure that every citizen in the area gets a fair shake.

  12. Run, Don't Walk, to Another City
    Oct 31, 2007, 3:38 pm

    The whole concept can be summed up in two words:


  13. Run, Don't Walk, to Another City
    Oct 31, 2007, 3:38 pm

    The whole concept can be summed up in two words:


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