City Government

Boise Snubs Vista Over Potential Park

Vista neighborhood residents were dismayed two years ago when plans were announced to build a massive apartment complex along Victory road east of the Vista hill leading to the airport.

Now the Vista neighborhood president is justifiably upset to learn Boise officials failed to share the news with the VNA when the owners of the 60 acre parcel contacted Boise Parks offering to make a deal for a park After plans for a massive apartment complex fell through.

By Henry Wiebe, President
Vista Neighborhood Association

In my opinion, the community “partnership” between the City of Boise and the Vista Neighborhood Association (VNA) is currently in search of an adjective (you get to choose the adjective at the end of this story).

Last week I obtained documents/emails from the City of Boise via PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS.

I am presenting this question in the spirit of “Energize”, because I want to inspire community engagement to get involved, and for the City to work with our community in an open and transparent way.

My Investigation begins…
Marko “Butch” Simunich passed away July 22, 2016. His family farm (60+/- acres) on the Boise Bench, below the New York Canal, near Vista Ave represents an overwhelming opportunity for development.

Late in November 2016, Dave Kangus (former VNA President) sent me an email stating his awareness of Mr Simunich’s passing, and noted Conger Management Group had a contract to purchase the farm. The details were scarce, and rumors raced. Some say Mr Simunich wanted a baseball field.

Early June 2017, Kangus shared his knowledge that the agreement with Conger failed. Reasons and specifics unknown.

Five month later, on October 23, 2017 Andy Mehl / A&M Siminuch LLP, which owns the family farm, contacted Doug Holloway (Boise Parks Director). Mr Mehl asked Mr Holloway via email if the City of Boise would be interested in discussions that included splitting the property and making a park. “Before it is sold to residential development, we are interested in talking to the city.”

Holloway emailed the Mayor’s office same day.
Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 8.41.28 AM.png
The FOIA trail goes cold here. There’s no answer via email from the Mayor, and no record of reply back to A&M Siminuch either.

23 days later, another thread emerges via email between Mr Mehl and Jennifer Tomlinson, Parks and Rec Superintendent.

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 9.41.00 AM.png
This thread ends without clarity, just like the previous. It appears that Mrs Tomlinson was asking about the price, and Mr. Mehl restated their intention to sell and checking to see what interest the City of Boise has in it.

Six months later, May 1, 2018, A&M Simunich makes application to split the property (permit ROS18-00045). The Vista Neighborhood Association was not notified of the split for reasons found in the nuances of the type of split performed. And no one from the City felt it important to call or email the VNA because they weren’t legally required to do so.

As of today, this application is on hold because of a Simunich family lawsuit moving through the courts. I am not sure when this is expected to be resolved.

I became the VNA President in 2018. This story sprang into my focus after my phone call with David Moser, Associate Planner with Boise City. David was the 5th Boise City employee to contact the VNA seeking our annual report, which wasn’t due for two more weeks. The penchant need for our report left me wondering, so I called him. In our chat, I was sharing the overwhelming responsibility of keeping up on development notices, zoning changes, and hearing dates (the VNA received over 40 in 2018). Mr Moser advised me to triage and keep an eye on bigger issues, like the “Simunich” parcel. In response, I asked Mr Moser who currently owns the farm, and what did he know about it? He said very little. He peaked my interest. This is when I made the records request to the City of Boise to learn more.

So here we are. Still mostly in the dark, and forcing our way to become informed. I feel disappointed to learn the City of Boise was asked years ago if they’d like to buy it, and zero communication on this matter included the VNA. It begs the question, as a Neighborhood Association, what purpose do we serve? How are we partners with the City of Boise?

When the potential for a park surfaces, shouldn’t we be included in the conversation(s). Obviously we don’t have money to pay for it, but we’re told to get involved because we’re stakeholders. It stings to learn about these sorts of opportunities AFTER the fact. When this happens, it renders community participation apathetic and uninspired.

Which adjectives would you choose to describe the partnership between the City of Boise and VNA? Perhaps “MUSHROOM”…fed horse pucky and kept in the dark!”

SEE LETTER to Vista residents

February 18th, 2019
Simunich Farm / Potential For A New Public Park
Open Letter To: Vista Neighborhood Residences, All of Boise and Elected Officials:
As infill projects and farm ground turn into parking lots and driveways, open space in Boise is disappearing at an exponential rate. For decades the VNA and membership have established groundwork for a park at the Simunich Farm, located East of Vista Ave and South of Canal St..

“Planned Neighborhood Park: The Comprehensive
Park and Rec System Plan supports the purchase and
improvement of a neighborhood park on the east side
of Vista.” (pg. 3-22, Vista Vision Neighborhood Plan,
1999)

What you need to know: The Simunich Family has
honored this vision by reaching out to the City of Boise in an attempt to make a deal for a
public park. In response, the Mayor declined to enter into conversations with the family or the VNA on this very important issue. (It was through a Public Records Request that we learned of this).

Community benefits: Parks provide for the well-being of a community. According to several research studies, parks raise property values and provide revenue; businesses make relocation decisions based on the availability of parks and recreation services; parks promote physical health and reduce stress; parks increase the livability factor of an area; parks encourage social interaction; parks provide equal access to citizens despite economic differences; park involvement can lower crime/vandalism; and the majority of voters will approve bonds to acquire parks/conserve open space showing their overwhelming
importance.
1
As a result, it’s up to US, the citizens of BOISE. Now is the time to raise awareness for this matter; now is the time to request that the Mayor retrain his focus and place it back onto the planned needs of the community to keep our city livable in this crucial developmental stage.
Please text your email address to us @ (208)850-000, or send us an email
(vistanaboise@gmail.com) to stay informed for the call to action.

Sincerely,
VNA Board of Directors
1 Research from the National Recreation and Park Association:
https://www.nrpa.org/uploadedFiles/nrpa.org/Advocacy/Resources/Parks-Recreation-Essential

Comments & Discussion

16 comments for “Boise Snubs Vista Over Potential Park”

  1. Henry Wiebe
    Feb 15, 2019, 9:19 pm

    For those that wish to view the email messages not viewable in this post, here’s a link : https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1R0nPOElo7YXiDpuBvr-cxkwS-z0BeQ1v?usp=sharing

  2. In the first e-mail you posted, BPR’s Doug Holloway says Parks and Rec has no funding and is not accepting new proposals. Does anyone know when the policy of not accepting new proposals (except donations) went into effect, and if it is still in effect?

    My limited experience with Parks and Rec is that they have all kinds of funding when they want to. For example, in Military Reserve Parks and Rec are spending $450,000 for the new shrunken Dog Park and Restroom. Plus the relocation of the Archery Range may cost considerably more if lead is dealt with at the old shooting range. Plus Parks and Rec found funding for a new full-time position to tend the Bike Park.

  3. My adjective to describe the partnership between the city of Boise and the Vista Neighborhood Association is INCLUSIVE. My adjective to describe the attitude of our Elected and appointed Public Servants towards the public is IMPERIOUS. I choose this word based on their continued actions. As a community we should be VERY concerned.
    When was the last time an elected public servant was at the VNA meeting?
    PS has the Simunich property been annexed into the city??

  4. It sounds like someone knows something but no one is talking. I bet the Simunich family knows. Let’s reach out to them. The neighborhood deserves a right to know what’s going on! Wasn’t this area one of the areas being comsidered for some type of renewal but another area was chosen. Maybe it wasn’t chosen because the litigation that is making its way through the courts? I bet there is a plan for those 40 acres! Dig deeper and keep us informed…

  5. We can see how hard Holloway advocated for a park or open space preservation far from his neighborhood against the foothills. Frankly, if you live south of the river you just need to “get used to it” — it being massive apartment complexes on fields far from the city core. And all followed with the ironic “Making Boise the Most Livable City”.

  6. Team Dave’s only goal seems to be packing people into Boise like sardines.

    Growth is not good, it destroys quality of life like a malignant cancer.

  7. Private property rights.

    Ironic that when one is talking about the City not talking directly to a neighborhood association about a potential development, the association president and voice on this guest post is a REALTOR.
    Same for the previous VNA president.
    Is this now a steady marketing strategy for REALTORS?

    How crazy would it be if the City revealed some “inside information” to VNA and then the realtor for the future development turns out to be Henry Wiebe, or a connected broker? Ouch!

    Kind of reminds me of the ACHD bridge and Commissioner (Realtor/Attorney) Arnold. Working the inside angle for one’s own benefit. Of course.
    Realtors are always looking in the dirt to get an easy listing.

    The VNA doesn’t have much credibility in this issue and the city certainly doesn’t have to reveal negotiations between the city and a private owner.

    The real travesty here is the 60 acres of PRIME real estate is paying less than $5,000 in property taxes! A typical house across the street pays $1,600 for 1/5 acre.

    And when this place does go to development there will be the VanishingBoise people, and others crying about developers while forgetting about the Simunich family and the millions they got for selling the place.

    Just more of the same….

    EDITOR NOTE–You got this one wrong. Thjese guys were seeking a park–NOT development. Boise City was NOT negotiating, they simply were stonewalling in the name if “lack of funds.”

  8. I’m assuming this is the large vacant parcel just east of Vista, and south of Victory Road. For years, it’s been somewhat of a “noodle scratcher” for me, wondering why some deep-pockets developer didn’t put a “planned community” of some sort in there.

    Other old-timers might remember 20 years or so ago, when my friend Wayne Davis grew irises – acres and acres of them, in every imaginable color!

    That property might not be “paradise,” but our Overlords salivate when they think of paving it and putting up a parking lot… and collecting all that tax money!

    And you Vista Neighbors – you elected Team Dave to make the tough decisions. Now please just stand out of the way; they will do what’s best.

  9. You elected him!
    Feb 17, 2019, 7:56 pm

    You people have voted this gang of crooks into office over and over again. How dare you complain that they have set up a syndicate with the 20 years of complete election dominance you’ve given them.

  10. to Easterner: no motive for the realtors who volunteered to help VNA – they are onesie, twosie realtors, not developers. You’re accusative without reason.

    This is nothing like the ACHD elected commissioner and the bridge to the private property.

    This Simunich (sp?) property was in play for many years and the neighborhood should have (like dirt turns to gold), and may still have a chance. It is up to the Simunch’s to contribute to society and include amenities for the neighborhood. The city does have money. In fact about 100 million or so. . .

    Vote in the next election – if there is a new mind to put to work.

  11. Henry Wiebe
    Feb 19, 2019, 6:42 am

    Link to Vista Vision published 1999 (20 year plan) https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Rc0m_A9QcpO8KjU9r2Kg-ptphvEG-TFB/view?usp=sharing

    2.5 Public Park System
    Introduction As the population of the Vista Neighborhood increases, so will its demand for public open spaces. The provision for local parks and activities suited to the needs and desires of the population will serve to attract and retain families within the Vista Neighborhood. Background Report Findings Provision of Park and Recreation Services – The Vista Neighborhood is considered deficient in neighborhood parks. The Comprehensive Park and Recreation System Plan supports the purchase and improvement of a neighborhood park on the east side of Vista Avenue. Besides the acquisition of neighborhood parkland, opportunities to provide park area exist in the form of: (1) shared facilities with Whitney and Hawthorne Elementary Schools; (2) through the provision of mini-parks; and (3) by managed use of linear open space uses along the New York Canal and Union Pacific Railroad rights-of-ways. The economic and demographic character of Vista Neighborhood households supports locating a community center that serves low to moderate income families, and the young and aged members of the population. During the decade from 1980 to 1990 only two age groups saw an increase in population; people between the ages of 35-44, and over 65 years old. In 1990, more than 40% of the population was under 19 years of age, or over 65 years old. In regards to income, 40%-50% of the housing units within the Vista Neighborhood are rental, as compared to a citywide average of 34%. During the 1997/98 school year 63% of the Whitney Elementary School student body qualified for free and reduced lunches, as did 48% at Hawthorne Elementary School; the city average for that school year was 33%. These statistics are a reflection of the fact that more than 50% of the households in a large portion of the Vista Neighborhood earn low to moderate incomes. Plan Objectives: ¸ Increase the amount of green and open space within the Vista Neighborhood. ¸ Maintain and provide significant vegetation throughout the Vista Neighborhood. ¸ Manage and maintain the neighborhood’s park and recreation facilities in a manner that makes them attractive, safe, and functional for the population it serves.

    3.4 Openspace
    Current Park Facilities: The Vista Neighborhood contains one park, located at 2800 Canal Street on
    the west side of Vista Avenue. Approximately 5.75 acres in size, Shoshone Neighborhood Park is
    developed with restrooms, a children’s play area, tennis courts, and a ball field. There are no parks on the
    east side of Vista Avenue, forcing those who desire to use Shoshone Park to cross a five (5) lane arterial
    roadway. Neighborhood parks are located just outside the eastern boundary of the Vista Neighborhood
    but are relatively inaccessible due to three significant barriers: the Union Pacific Railroad, Federal Way
    and the New York Canal. Exhibit 5 below shows the current park coverages for the Vista Neighborhood
    Area. Note that the land east of Vista Avenue is devoid of parks, and the crosshatched area displays park
    coverage that is marginal due to poor accessibility.

    Planned Neighborhood Park: The Comprehensive Park and Recreation System Plan supports the
    purchase and improvement of a neighborhood park on the east side of Vista.

  12. Dave Kangas
    Feb 19, 2019, 1:08 pm

    Well Easterner likes to disparage, cast rocks from afar, under an alias in case he’s called to the carpet for proof and facts. The travesty of this piece is that it is lost in all the projects Mayor Bieter has going- the stadium, the library, the trolley, dogs parks, white water park, etc, etc. There are funds available if the will is there. However, the City’s entire focus seems to be along the river and the downtown core. It is too bad that such an opportunity to sit down and discuss the possibilities was so easily cast aside. Transparency- had to be found via a public records request. Trust- after many years of working with the city, parks and rec an opportunity was ignored. Communication- lack of…. Now I understand many people’s distrust of government and intentions.

  13. Mr. Kangas, it is called speculating and being suspicious of motives; much like the VNA is ‘speculating’ Boise City operated in an intentional manner to “ignore” the opportunity of yet another park- Despite the emails showing the Parks Dept did ask about a price and did reply to the owner’s inquiry.
    Simply because VNA was not invited “to
    sit down and discuss the possibilities”, does not mean a discussion did not happen. So WHO is disparaging whom? I would say VNA is indeed unfairly disparaging the Mayor and city parks and accusing them of things VNA is not aware.
    Add your statement “the City’s ENTIRE focus”… That’s certainly exaggerated and certainly not a nice way to engage in a “partnership” with the city.
    I would ‘speculate’ the city has spent considerable efforts, in recent years, directed at the Vista neighborhood including the airport, F35s, and refugee housing. Perhaps Vista has used up their quota. Ha!

    So, clearly the developer did not donate the land to make a park – despite VNA’s statement above “Simunich Family has honored this vision”. They could have donated it or put an easement on it at any time if that was their intent.
    Otherwise, waiting and hoping the city will BUY it, is something else ___.

    Most other parks are DONATED or funded purchases and get the family naming rights. Including the Whitewater Park you mentioned as a ‘distraction’ to a Vista park.
    Here for example in SouthEAST Boise (not downtown) just a couple months ago a NEW Boise park https://www.kivitv.com/news/land-donated-for-new-southeast-boise-park

    Good luck getting another neighborhood park!

  14. Brandi Venable
    Feb 20, 2019, 1:34 pm

    If you would like to attend, the next VNA meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 28th from 7:00-9:00 pm at the Whitney Community Center. We would welcome further discussion there.

  15. Brandi Venable
    Feb 20, 2019, 4:03 pm

    The next VNA meeting will be held on Thursday, February 28th from 7:00 – 9:00 pm at the Whitney Community Center. We welcome continued discussion on this topic.

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