Guest Opinion By
This Tuesday, July 16, Boise City Council will hear an appeal by developers CBH and Trilogy to overturn the earlier rejection of their 288 unit development along Hill Road known as Prominence. Boise’s Planning and Zoning Commission denied the proposal in May, which included a 130 unit three story apartment on 38 acres of farm fields in NW Boise, because the area lacks adequate fire coverage, unresolved traffic concerns, incompatibility with the large, semi-rural surrounding area, and because the city has yet to work with neighbors to identify an appropriate mix of land uses in this area, as directed in Boise’s Comprehensive Plan.
Safety and building along the fire prone foothills has become a controversial topic after Boise Fire Department announced a change in plans from building a new station on a previously approved site on Pierce Park Lane. The change calls for building no new fire stations to cover the NW Boise planning area. Instead, the new plan would relocate the North Ada County Fire Station south of the Boise River in Garden City north to a city owned parcel on Gary Lane, which is shown as a future park site on many city maps. The single station would then be responsible for much of the area south of the river, north into Hidden Springs, as well as into the current coverage gap east of Pierce Park Lane and a new gap west toward Eagle City limits.
Residents say the relocation fails to comply with the Annexation Plans and Ordinances under which the NW area was involuntarily annexed in 2014 and 2015.
Erika Schofield, a resident and board member of the North West Neighborhood Association (NWNA), says, “Evidence in the record shows a fire station on Gary lane will not be in compliance with the required Level of Service standard, while a fire station on Pierce Park Lane would be. This station site was chosen to resolve the long-standing gap in coverage where Cynthia Mann Elementary school is located and to resolve the lack of quick response service into the foothills.”
She says research into city records has uncovered a long history showing the lack of the required Level of Service standard for fire coverage and the need for the fire station that has been approved for Pierce Park Lane:
These are the folks who have been paying taxes to the City of Boise for some time now and for many of them it has been years and years. They are underserved and are not within that green area which is a four minute response time.
As the new administration looked at this Northwest area we saw that clearly we have a large portion of the city that is underserved and they are at greater risk of injury and death due to the fact that our response times are not where we want.”
— Mitch Caldwell, BFD Deputy Chief, PZC Hearing, 02/01/2010
“A station on Gary Lane would leave too big a gap,” Doan said.
— Idaho Statesman, 01/26/2010
Dennis Dunn, the vice president of NWNA, agrees with Schofield, “What is incomprehensible is that city staff are ignoring Boise City Code and State Statute in recommending the approval of this rezone when it is clearly not in compliance with the required criteria and standards. What is of greater concern is that city staff would recommend this rezone, PUD [Planned Unit Development], and subdivision application when it clearly elevates the risk for all Boise City residents. It is confusing at best and disturbing that the most basic tenets of ‘serve and protect’ seem to not apply when it is inconvenient for a developer.”
The North West Neighborhood Association received a $50,000 grant in 2018 to create a neighborhood plan in concert with the city of Boise. During an online survey and a first open house to collect public input, residents expressed concern for the loss of agricultural land and open spaces, as well as the need to protect the network of irrigation waterways that have been a hallmark of this traditionally agricultural area between the foothills and the Boise River.
Remnants of the northern spur of the Oregon Trail known as Goodale’s Cutoff can still be seen near the Prominence site. Neighbors fear that Boise has not properly assessed the impact of the proposed development on important historical, cultural, agricultural, and ecological sites nearby, as required components of Idaho Code’s comprehensive planning process, in part because the Comprehensive Plan, or Blueprint Boise, a document that guides city development, was written before the area became part of the city in a controversial process in 2014 and 2015. According to Richard Llewellyn, president of the North West Neighborhood Association, the planning process should be allowed to finish before any major land use decisions such as rezones are made for the area:
“It’s the politics of sprawl, where residents on the city’s growing edges have a hard time being heard by Boise leadership because we haven’t had representation or the right to vote, unlike the developers, who often have long relationships with our politicians. So we are threatened with massive, disruptive changes that tear apart our neighborhoods, instead of developing under a long term plan that we have participated in. The Planning and Zoning Commission made the right decision based on safety and to finally give the neighborhood residents a voice by turning down CBH’s Prominence proposal. We hope that City Council and Mayor will uphold their decision.”
To insure more advertising-free Boise Guardian news, please consider financial support.