Statesman Report Explains Secret Land Deal

After Boise officials refused to return calls or refused to discuss details of a secret land deal, the GUARDIAN has to offer a tip of the hat to the STATESMAN’S CYNTHIA SEWELL.

The GUARDIAN broke the story last week about a complex land swap, but it was the DAILY PAPER that was able to put it together. We doubt if the story would have even been reported had the GUARDIAN also taken the hands off attitude of legacy media when it comes to local government.

While it can be argued the city is rid of surplus land that previously couldn’t even interest any bidders, the fact remains the city acquired useless land during one administration and subsequent administration has sold it in a secret transaction.

Our source’s speculation about what land would be involved in the trade was admittedly wrong, but when government refuses to cooperate, favoring private business through “serendipity,” it is hard to open the curtain of secrecy. Mayor Dave Bieter promised “transparency” in his administration, but the only transparency we see is a stone wall.

We simply find it hard to believe the explanation offered by Team Dave, claiming that while attending a conference in California Bieter had “a couple hours to spare” and visited a California land developer which led to the deal. RIGHT!

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Forget about all the arcane real estate stuff. What the heck would they want with the old armory? What possible use could that place have?

  2. Quote from the article:

    “The city prefers developers with immediate plans that will translate into jobs and taxes over speculators who would hold the land to develop later, said Jade Riley, the mayor’s chief of staff.”

    That’s funny because the city’s own onerous planning and zoning rules specifically the preservation ones are in direct conflict with that statement.

    I’m going to apply Occam’s Razor here. It’s simple really. Certain city officials live very close to the old armory site and want to have it developed the way he/she sees fit. Heck, can’t blame him/her. I’d probably do the same if I was in the position to pull it off.

  3. Very Complex: Can you make a simple list of winners and losers going back a few years so that we can quickly identify the reasons for all this? Please include “friends” of the transacting parties who happened to be in the right place and the right time more than once.

    EDITOR NOTE–Honestly don’t know winners and losers, except the citizens of Boise are losers for the way it is done. For us the end does NOT justify the means, but the GUARDIAN has been a lone voice in this area for years.

  4. Syringa Orchard
    Dec 12, 2011, 1:37 pm

    A few factoids to throw into the mix:

    A primary force behind armory preservation is a group of East End neighbors, who have been pushing the city to find a suitable use for the property that keeps the building.

    “Secret” real estate negotiations are entirely lawful; they are specifically and reasonably exempt from open-meeting requirements. The actual transactions must, of course, be approved in open, public meetings where the deals struck are open to public scrutiny and comment.
    Those who think this a bad deal should tell why and say what the city should do with the properties instead.

    Such land deals are, indeed, complicated and would be difficult to work out in a public forum. But they can result in great public benefit.

    The most successful example I know of resulted in saving Hulls Gulch from residential development while giving a small piece of city land for a needed water treatment plant. It also involved swapping city and federal lands and about $900,000 in federal funds.

    EDITOR NOTE–Some of this land is the failed BIETER lease deal with Mountain View Power for a gas fired electric plant. Also some of the land was declared “surplus” five years ago–hardly a current deal. Same time they declared the 27th and Fairview property surplus…that deal was for a private hospital which also failed when St. Luke’s bought the doctors and the land.

    In that deal the city ended up with another rocky piece of desert off Gowen Rd at an inflated price. Secret deals are indeed legal, but certainly not necessary when the city is SELLING land, not acquiring it.

  5. As long as we have an Attorney General who is unwilling to prosecute elected officials for mischief, violating laws and their lack of transparency in all public matters involving public assets, things will continue in the BAD OLD MANNER that has been allowed to go on for years and years in Idaho.

    “It serves no purpose to prosecute” seems to be the attitude of the current AG and his staff.

  6. Syringa Orchard
    Dec 13, 2011, 11:56 am

    Paul–Which laws are you alleging have been broken, which you think the AG should prosecute?

    EDITOR NOTE–Good point. We feel they skirted it quite well. There seems to be little public outrage at this point, so it is business as usual. Letter, not spirit of the law prevailed.

  7. LOL. I have’t been here in a while, but once I read the article in the Statesman I just had to come and see what has pissed the Guardian off about this one. All I can figure is the Guardian does not like the mayor. Period. So the mayor and his employees will never be right in the Guardian’s eyes. Coming to this site and knowing ahead of time what spin you will get is the same as tuning the radio to the Rush Limbaugh program (if something happened and a demo did it, it is a nasty, bad thing. If something happened and a repub did it, it is a wonderful, beautiful thing.) Period. Yawn. Not much intelligent discourse there.

  8. Dear Sam, the editor dislikes dishonesty as best I can figure out. Perhaps this is why I’ve not sensed him to be a fan of either major party.

  9. Samshouse:

    How about you intelligently discourse this:

    Why should we preserve that dump? Tear it the heck down and sell the land off to the highest bidder. Or do a secret land deal, unlike the guardian I don’t care about that aspect, i.e., the end justifies the means.

    I love art deco. I’ve been remodeling my house and working very hard to preserve its art deco elements.

    But the fact that art deco is neato is not a good enough reason to have that property remain abandoned and off the tax rolls forever.

    EDITOR NOTE–The real issue here is NOT the Armory. The Armory is merely one of the pawns in the chess game. Look for more to come and I am sure both of you will see it differently.

  10. So if we want to talk law.

    Maybe society should revisit adverse possession law. Why and how long should society tolerate abandoned properties especially when they’re in the inner city?

    I propose a 20 year limit on abandoned properties. After that point a city can legally take them from the owner for redevelopment purposes.

    There is already Supreme Court precedent for my idea. The Kelo Decision.

  11. The Kelo decision allows cities to take private property and transfer it to others (developers) for their use. It’s horrible law.

    EDITOR NOTE–As far as we can determine, this deal is a reverse of that. The city is doing an insider trade, skirting the law, and insuring that a specific developer gets the land in question.

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