City Government

City-Wide Conservation Areas Worth The Price

It is gratifying to see Mayor Dave Bieter and his “Team Dave” field a proposal based on a GUARDIAN suggestion. We join other conservation groups with our tentative support of his new plan for a two year “conservation” serial levy. Protecting open spaces throughout the city for wildlife and recreation is a worthy cause. We don’t want to see the $10 million in revenues used as a slush fund for outland purchases such as Stack Rock in Boise County or areas which will merely increase property values of lands adjoining developments.


There are rumblings among the Greenies about another Foothills Levy and the Daily Paper
is soliciting comments from readers on the potential serial levy–a two year only tax increase. The money from the levy of 10 years ago is mostly gone.

The previous levy was full of illegal and dishonest acts. Former Mayor Brent Coles starred in a video financed by $50,000 in tax money to promote the levy. Staff worked on city time and used city resources to advocate on behalf of the levy. A “victory party” for the so-called Friends of the Foothills was celebrated at the Depot and they never paid for the private function.

Also, the ballot question was written by the committee advocating the measure and was not approved by the council prior to printing as required by law. All in all it was a pretty disgusting display on the part of City government. We deserve better this time around and we note NONE of the current councilors or mayor was part of the original levy campaign.

That said, the people went to the polls and approved the levy and the $10 million raised has for the most part gone to preserve the Foothills from over development. The latest and greatest expense was the acquisition of the Hammer Flats wildlife area above Lucky Peak Dam.

This time around the GUARDIAN can easily get onboard if the conservation minded members of the community push for citywide CONSERVATION EASEMENTS and not limit their attention to the Foothills.

Boise Council GROWTHOPHILES over the years have annexed hundreds upon hundreds of acres of land in southwest Boise into the city limits. It is time to take an inventory of those lands to identify existing wetlands, wildlife habitat and high desert flora that could use some protection. This should include gravel pits, ditch banks, riparian areas along the river and various streams and even natural desert.

In the Vista neighborhood alone we see fox, raccoon, deer along the tracks, myriad birds, and plenty of open spaces that need protection. Joni Mitchell’s song “They Paved Paradise” says it all:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. They are erecting Neo-Los Angeles as fast as they can. Everywhere I go in the valley, bulldozers are destroying the final patches of farm land. Good thing humans don’t need food. Just found out a 196 unit apartment ghetto is in the works for 2105 Federal Way, next to the post office.

  2. Lauren McLean, now a Boise City Councilor, was one of the prime leaders in getting the $10 million foothills levy passed.

    The purchases of land and easements have been conducted so well that the public has obtained nearly twice the value of its $10 million “investment.” For instance, Hammer Flat was eventually bought by Idaho Fish & Game; the land remains public and the city gets to recycle the $$.

    Stack Rock, while outside city limits &—like Bogus Basin—a popular recreational resource for Boiseans will turn out to be a wise use of those allegedly ill-gotten gains.

  3. Not sure what an apartment bldg on Federal Way has to do with the topic at hand, but since you brought it up: 2105 Federal Way is on a bus route; the land hasn’t been farmed in years (too bad!); spectacular view of the foothills. Apartment or condo living isn’t for everyone; “ghetto”!? Hardly.

  4. The next time you hear that you should preserve water in Boise ask why……So we can support more development?

  5. The valley’ll run out of breathable air long before it’ll run out of water. A river runs through it!

  6. “We deserve better this time around”

    Deserve and get are two different things.

    The idea of preserving “open space” is a misnomer. The fact that the Guardian sees fox and deer running around Vista Ave is proof that we don’t need to “preserve” land in the name of the city. Animals adapt.
    But animals should NOT be adapting to the city- they don’t belong in the city (excepts rats and squirrels of course).

    Meanwhile we have goose poop in our parks so bad the Parks/Rec is in a tailspin trying to prevent it. Bears in school areas, raccoons in the drainage system, moose in back yards, peregrines in downtown, and mtn lions on BSU campus. Yeah right, we need MORE taxpayer paid spaces for wild animals within the urban boundary. Then ACHD can put up stupid little signs for them to read to find their way to the nearest “conservation area”.

    The city should not be owning land for anything beyond their exact requirements to administer city government.

  7. So, owning and managing public parks is not a legitimate function of city government?

  8. Grumpy ole Guy
    May 30, 2015, 10:33 pm

    It is so heartening to see proposals such as this one brought forward. I have long been a fan of true long-range planning and I think this is an example worth note. We have been able to plow up farm land for dwelling space because we can simply get water to “new: land to replace it. However with climate change and the long-term forecast of water loss, that is no longer the case. Wet land preservation will not only allow greater water preservation, but also acts as purification of the water which both city and rural land use creates.

  9. Sure, but how about we just cut back on some of the silly spending to pay for it instead of a new tax.

    BTW: In Seattle or Portland, if a momma skunk has a litter in your crawlspace, you gotta wait until they choose to move out… by law ya can’t kill or evict. Progress??

  10. chicago sam
    Jun 1, 2015, 11:23 am

    Zippo–Not much different than elected officials in Idaho. Ever try to recall one?

  11. Wildlife Levy and Property Taxes:

    My assessed value has gone up 42% in the last two years. About 30% this year and 12% the year before. While I appreciate the appreciation, it is a liability to me until I sell, which I don’t want to sell.

    In recent years there have been new levies for schools and fire stations. CWI will be asking for a new levy or an increase to the current levy.

    My raise last year was 2%, about equal to inflation. I am sliding and may not be able to afford to remain in the neighborhood I could afford two decades ago when I bought into it.

    With property taxes, we never actually own our land, we essentially enter into a contract with the government to ground lease the land from the government in perpetuity (except the government retains the right of eminent domain), and get rights to use the land for the then prevailing zoning rules and ordinances, all for the price of the then prevailing and ever changing property taxes.

    With any long-term contract the payee is usually protected by clauses in the contract where the amount of the ground lease (or property taxes in this example) is subject to some independent rationale third party process by which the payee is entitled to some limits on increases, and the entity receiving payments is guaranteed a reasonable increase. Usually these contracts are tied to some increase like no more than 3% per year, or inflation per the CPI index.

    A more equitable approach would be whenever you purchase your house, the then existing property taxes become the base, and the property taxes you pay can not increase more than CPI or the proposed increase, whichever is less.

    The current method that you only own your land subject to the demands of the government for property taxes, and having those property taxes increase in one year 15 fold the rate of inflation is not equitable nor fair, and actually hurts families trying to own and remain in their home and neighborhood. If the court system was not part of the government which is funded from property taxes, they would rule such a contract and payment scheme unconscionable and nonenforceable.

    The problem with the Wildlife Levy is it is a good idea we would all like to fund, but in a year where the average property value (and likely property taxes) will increase 3 times or more the inflation rate, it is hard to afford.

    The City, Schools, County, etc is never short a list of ideas of how to collect and spend more property taxes, but there is rarely a conversation about the cumulative effect, and can Boise, and Idaho in general where we have the highest proportion of minimum wage jobs in the country, really afford all these good ideas?

    Why not think more creatively, if the City wants more wildlife preserves, then sell the City owned golf courses and use the proceeds and new property taxes from the now-taxable golf course and buy that land. How much other undeveloped or underdeveloped land does the city own that could be sold to fund wildlife preserves?

  12. JJ: If you’re getting those kinds of assessment hikes, you probably ought to be protesting them. Mine just came in at 1.5% over last year; 2014 was a 7.7% hike; 2013, 7.5%; 2012, 1.3%. Thanks to the homeowners exemption, my taxable property value has increased less than 19% over that period—quite a bargain in my mind.

    I’ve lived in many places across this land—in and out of community. It doesn’t get much better or economical—including taxes—than Boise.

    There are costs for the benefits of living in community. Fortunately we live in one where you can get to know the decision-makers, who will listen to your ideas. If your assessment increases are as far out of line as yours appear to be, you may be heard.

    EDITOR NOTE–This sounds like another ringing endorsement in support of Assessor Bob McQuade!

  13. Rabula,

    Pray tell, what ValleyRide bus route # would the proposed apartments at 2105 S Federal Way be on?

  14. How about a trolley connecting them?

  15. Good point 4523A.

    About conservation easements:
    IF someone wanted to make a conservation easement (such as the Hollows parcel) #generally# one makes a gift to a land trust; several such organizations exist in the Treasure Valley just for this purpose.
    So, a land trust is tax-exempt from property taxes…. hmmm… how many people posting here are opposed to tax-exempt organizations, such as CWI, not paying property taxes?

    Or in this case, the land gets bought by the city of Boise. Guess who doesn’t pay county property taxes?

    So who wants to pay more taxes to buy land that won’t pay taxes in the future, just for the sake of a skunk refuge?
    Just two years? no. Those parcels are out of the pool for available taxpayers so everyone’s taxes go up slightly— forever! 10 million of exempt property, means 100,000+ of taxes being paid by everyone else. Next year that’s 104,000, and then 109,000 and it keeps adding up. Remember the city/county doesn’t reduce their budget for this- in fact they increase the budget to maintain & “manage” additional tax-exempt land= more taxes.

    EDITOR NOTE–Easterner, you make a good point. We make the similar argument when CCDC and other urban renewal agencies fund public works projects which will be off the tax rolls forever. Best current example is the SkyWest tax-exempt hangar owned by the city. Costs over $340,000 a year in lost revenue.

  16. And its’ a similar argument when the state is competing with private companies owning storage facilities. The city swimming pool competes with Wild Waters. Warm Springs and now Quail compete against every other golf course. And the parks compete with everything else people can do for entertainment: “Should I go to the free park or go to the movies?”
    It’s all about balance, but Boise liberals are happy to weigh the scale heavily toward “collective ownership”.

    If people want to see wild animals in their neighborhood, the homeowners can do whatever they want with their private land and encourage animals on their private land (still a bad idea).

    And if the Mayor wants to have open space in the foothills, then P&Z should not be allowing high density houses on the foothill ridges for everyone else to look at when they stare at the hills.
    And the Assessor should be valuing speculator development land as investment land instead of agriculture. Arizona development companies paying agriculture rates is ridiculous.

    And did I mention “the city should not be owning land for anything beyond their exact requirements to administer city government”? 🙂

  17. Where I live, Mayor Nancolas and his merry men have cooked the taxation goose with the abuses of their gross property taxation with urban renewal. It would be nearly impossible to pass any kind of additional taxation on property given the already gross amounts we pay in property taxes.

    I don’t live in the URA district but the impact of Urban Renewal is costing me an additional $300/yr. on my property tax bill. Downtown property taxes are beyond reason due to the stupid purchases by the URA board to build TVCC at Caldwell taxpayer expense. Downtown property taxes on all the old dumpy property downtown make any kind of sales or improvements difficult..

  18. chicago sam
    Jun 2, 2015, 4:47 pm

    No discussion of tax exempt property is complete in Boise without the buildings and property that the State Land Board owns and manages. A brewery–office buildings and a storage investment –over 20 in all I believe.. Last legislature indicated that the State should be selling these property’s. The tax revenue from these enterprises in the hands of private individuals are enough to make a significant difference in Boise property taxes.

  19. 4523A: 2105 Federal Way is a quarter-mile walk from a #29 stop at Fed’l Wy * Overland. In most cities, that’s considered on a bus line. With a couple hundred potential riders, Valley Ride might consider rerouting. That’s an advantage of bus over rail; routes can change.

  20. Nice try Rabula.

    Close but off by about 0.15 miles. Nez Perce (extended) would be about a 1/4 mile south of Overland. 2105 FW is way south of Nez Perce.

    The Federal Way address, the one that would be a nice nature type area due to it’s proximity to the RR tracks which the local wildlife use, is about 0.4 miles from the bus stop on Overland. Add to that the “walk out” distance and you’re probably close to 1/2 mile – out on the very fringe of a transit service (walking) area.

    But the Federal Way address sure would be transit friendly with 300 people on about 0.8 acres. That works out to about 37 people per acre or about 24,000 folks per square mile. Heck, that’s even more than trolley friendly. Those numbers are trolley heaven.

    I’d rather see 2105 property as a conservation area – even if it means being off the tax rolls.

    Hopefully, the Vista Neighborhood Association will either be able to stop the 2105 FW project or get substantial changes made to it.

  21. It’s interesting that it always boils down to the inequity of the property tax. Too many exemptions. And yet we continue to stick with it as a primary means of collecting money.

  22. 4523A: Let’s quibble—Google Maps says 0.3 mile, a 6–7 minute walk. In most cities that’s an acceptable walk to a transit stop.

    As that area and the bus system develop, Federal Way should have a bus route out to Micron. But that’s a whole other story.

    At any rate, it doesn’t look like great wildlife habitat to me.

  23. Erico49, what other method would you suggest for city/local taxation?

    Reminder– it’s 40 – 60% of a county/city budget.

  24. Easterner. Many City and County services are already fee-based (water, sewer, solid waste, wastewater). The major ones that aren’t are roads, police, fire, and education. I think we could work a system of fee based on cost of service for fire and police. For example, houses of a particular size and fire insurance rating pay a flat fee. Business pay a fee based on square footage and number of stories. No exemptions. Roads should be funded by mileage tax, not property. Police fees would be based on location.. so downtown businesses would pay more because downtown uses so many police resources. Schools would be a flat rate of some sort. You would have to make certain adjustments for affordabilty once the initial studies are done, and perhaps supplement with a local-option sales tax, but the result would be more fair and certainly less complicated. And we could disband the assessor’s office.

  25. Erico: So pay based on square footage? Seem a LOT like property tax.

    Roads are primarily funded by fuels tax (pretty close to a mileage tax) and in some ways better.

    Police based on location? You mean like the property location, right? Like a property tax? A nicer neighborhood = higher values= more important to keep crime away = higher cost.

    And then you want to make “certain adjustments for affordability” but you said in the same post “No exemptions”.

    And a sales tax – the most regressive of any tax- will fill in the gap?

    Disband the assessor’s office? Who is going to count the square footage and # of floors of the businesses, and follow up with a bill? Oh wait, I suppose it’s all 100% voluntary.

    Billing for cost of emergency services? I bet next time you get a bill for an ambulance ride, you will reconsider your basic taxing system in your SimCity.

    good luck!

  26. Easterner;

    I agree with about 90% of your post, but then at the end you offer a bill for an ambulance ride as an extreme example of the taxing system in SimCity, implying that billing for emergency services is a crazy idea. But that is the system already in place in Ada County and much of Idaho. You ride in an ambulance, you get a bill.

  27. would it be unreasonable of Valley Ride to add a stop in front of the apartments if they get built?

  28. Glen I realize that, for the ambulance ride. That does not fall within my personal viewpoint.

    I think county taxes should pay for ambulance rides. Calling 911 should not cost extra.
    I also think a fire truck should not respond to a MEDICAL emergency. Save money there and use it on funding a county supported ambulance service. Pay a little each year and then when we all have the need it’s paid for.
    But now we’re just getting off topic. 🙂

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