City Government

SW Cropland Worth 20 Times Foothills Per Acre

After seeing about 400 residents sign up for the public hearing on a proposed land swap that would plant up to 400 houses on proposed park land in SW Boise, we checked some official land value records.

Boise City is proposing to swap 160 acres of irrigated farm land previously designated as a future park for 500 acres of Foothills open space.

The Ada County Assessor’s office shows the median value of irrigated farm land at $1252 per acre. Dry grazing land in the foothills has a median value of $66. That means a “fair trade” would mandate nearly 20 acres of foothills land for each acre of irrigated crop land…about 3200 acres.

Our past experience observing how Boise City trades and gets appraisals leans to some convoluted trade deals and questionable transactions.

UPDATE 6/23/21 Harris Ranch family identified as the developer by BOISEDEV.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. This whole thing stinks to high heaven. The Zoom meeting was a joke.
    Follow is a letter I sent to J. Tomlinson 2 days prior to her Zoom meeting:

    To Boise City Council,

    Way to go! It is not enough that Boise (and Idaho in general) is dealing with the rivalry between the politicos, now you have further introduced rivalry between sections of the city.

    The people of SW Boise, have been promised “open space” via the proposed Murgoitio Park for years, since the Murgoitio family sold it to the city for the intended purpose of a park. The people of SW Boise have complained little since they started paying Park Impact fees in or about 1995 so the “park” could be developed. And you say there’s no money for the “greening” of the park. WHY??? WHERE DID THE MONEY GO??? To refurbish Kathryn Albertson Park, redo Ann Morrison Park or for the development of more parks downtown. Who have you been “greening up” the developers??

    Now, you want to “swap” this “open Space” for something in the Foothills of Boise. So, the people of SW Boise want to know why we are going to be deprived of a wonderful “Open Space” park and replaced by service gobbling residential area.

    If this “behind closed door deal” takes place with a developer that has been chosen but refuses to be named, the city needs to refund the Park Impact fees they have collected for approximately 26 years.

    I bet if the land had been handed over by a family named Albertsons, or Morrison the land swap would probably not take place and the Murgoitio Park would be ready for park use next year.

    The city is constantly griping about lack of housing–then STOP promoting the growth!!

    The city of Boise is betraying citizens of SW Boise for the benefit of a developer and the foothills crowd.

    With Respect but also Disgust,

  2. If appraisals are all about comparable values, then the recent auction in Eagle for their park land should be a better guestimate. That would be $265K/acre. Or maybe the State of Idaho lands auction in Caldwell for $125K/acre. Both of the above properties were purchased for housing development which is what most the Murgoitio site would be too. On the low end, this property could be based at $20 million, which should get many more acres than just 500 in the foothills.

  3. This sort of backroom deal-making is precisely why the city council is being balkanized. This land-swap proposal should be delayed until a more geographically balanced council is seated.

    Real-estate deals involving publicly owned properties are NOT exempt from public disclosure, yet at Friday’s “neighborhood meeting,” the parks and rec representative refused to disclose the developer or the location of the foothills land being proposed for the swap.

    The parks and rec director has a history of cutting deals behind closed doors before the public has any knowledge or a chance to chime in. There’s a strange odor emanating from city hall on this one. Who gave Holloway orders to negotiate this deal w/o public knowledge?

    The tenor of Friday’s meeting was: Properties in the southwest have not yet been annexed into or paid taxes to the city; therefore, residents should have no expectation of a regional park once promised by city leaders with the foresight to know its value to residents in the city’s impact area, who eventually will be annexed into the city.

  4. Pretty easy to come up with a fair valuation.
    Just down the road is Senator Risch’s plot of 40 acres of irrigated farmland. 5776 S Cole Rd.

    Certainly, Risch is paying a fair tax on their property: 40 acres on S Cole-
    It shows a $49,200 valuation, right in line with the $1,252/acre mentioned above.

    $49,200 x 4 for the 160 Acres = 196,800.

    Add a premium for contiguous acres and access on two main roads— maybe $250,000.

    To trade it ANY more value would be evidence the Senator is not paying their fair share, right?
    Assessor McQuade, are you paying attention to this deal?

    A city park in South Boise?
    That’s hilarious! I suppose someone wants trees too.

    Big Picture.
    1) The state needs to make property sales as full-disclosure so property owners pay their fair share. Just as 38 other states do.
    2) The county assessors need to report all valuations for all non-taxed property too, so we know the lost tax base.

    Instead the Legislature did almost nothing to help the property tax cluster.

  5. Easterner,
    If it was hilarious to propose a park in South Boise, why did the city and airport approve it on four occasions and keep it in the General Plan for decades. Since 93 builders, buyers, seller and agents relied upon the General Plan with Murgoitio Park. What will it do to property values when the world discovers that the city of Boise writes with erasable ink? For decades people in SW Boise have paid property taxes based on prices that reflect Murgoitio Park. Must be a strategy to stop people from moving here, show the underhanded manner by which the city of Boise does business.

  6. The gall of the north/east end pols is just stunning.

  7. chicago sam
    Jun 22, 2021, 6:47 pm

    By quoting what the assessor values this land at points out the inequity in how land is appraised. Ag land is by law appraised differently than residential property and commercial has a different way of appraising too. Clancy is much closer to the real value by quoting what bare land has sold for and likely turned into a housing developments in Eagle and Caldwell

    EDITOR NOTE–Sam, I understand your point. However, the figures are the ONLY ones we have at this point. I checked with an appraiser who noted the “income method” of value on the Foothills is probably close and the city property is tax-free and there is no category for undeveloped park land. Either way, if you put at least 400 living units on the park land it has a much higher value than the open grazing/hiking open space in the foothills.

  8. Boise Model
    Jun 22, 2021, 9:11 pm

    Just last year the city purchased a large parcel from the Governor’s family. 325 acres for 1.2 million

  9. Boy, one would have thought that with a new administration all of this would change. Her Highness certainly caters to her North End friends while the rest of Boise can just “eat cake” with Marie Antoinette.

    It is long past time for city council districts.

  10. Reminds me of the scene from Animal House after the gang had destroyed Flounder’s car. Otter, laughing, says “You f-ed up! You trusted us!”
    The city has documents decades old describing all the amenities of Murgoitio park: baseball, soccer, tennis, playground, dog park, ponds, etc. Now their story is “Oh, you’re not in the City. Too bad”.

  11. E.B. Schofield
    Jun 23, 2021, 4:42 pm

    Swindled – I love your reference to the City’s use of erasable ink. This same magical writing instrument has been used to draw the fire station locations for the NW Planning Area on the Boise Fire Department’s Master Siting Plan for the past 30 years.

  12. Methinks Princess Elaine is behind this deal. The Harris Ranch developer has been a strong supporter. Unbuildable foothills land in exchange for a quarter section of flat farmland is the new Smart Growth, at least from a developer’$ point of view.

  13. Dave Kangas
    Jun 23, 2021, 8:06 pm

    The City is being very short sighted. Their either or scenario, is insulting.

    Out of 160 acres, they could create a world class community and vision. Sell 60-80 acres to fund the green up of the remainder.

    The developable ground should be sold for a combination of market rate and affordable housing. Develop would agreements restricted housing size to prices down. Sell some to affordable housing developers to serve low income residents.

    Create an activity park- dog park, tennis courts, frisbee golf, bicycle terrain park- all in one location. There is a vision out there somewhere to have pathways along the canals, here is the first piece of that puzzle. Instead of a Ribbon of Jewels along the Boise River, how about a ribbon of gold along the NY Canal?

    Development land like this in Boise is worth more than the recent Eagle sale.

    People really need, should be, angry at this proposal. There is ZERO REASON they cannot build both housing and a world class park- ZERO. Just an extreme lack of conviction.

  14. Seems like the same people who have complained and argued against airport noise are now promoting for the city to approve and promote project of housing and outdoor recreation right next to and under the airport airspace. True?

  15. Follow the money
    Jun 24, 2021, 11:35 am

    Not surprised at all regarding who donated to Princess Elaine (Clegg) in the last election cycle? The Idaho Statesman created a searchable database, which shows Harris Family members made some of the maximum allowed donation amounts (4 Harris family siblings are Randy Harris, Gary Harris, Millie Davis, Felicia Burkhalter).

    $1000 from Harris Family Ltd. Partnership – which is Millie, Felicia, and a Brian Harris

    $1000 from Randy Harris

    $1000 from Felicia Burkhalter

    $1000 from Barber Valley Irrigation – which has Doug Fowler as the registered agent.

    $1000 from Conger Mgt. Group – Jim Conger is another big developer in town. Deep in bed with the City. Boise records show he was upset he was not selected to be on the Zoning Code Rewrite Citizen Committee.

    $500 from Deborah Nelson – an attorney from Givens Pursley whom the developers frequently use as their talking head, and in public hearings McLean and Elaine simply call her “Deb” like she is their best friend.

    $1000 from Republic Services – the trash collection company. A bit strange that they contribute to elections, but then they gain more customers if the City keeps approving more annexations and development.

  16. It is hard to know what is behind it but your instinct is probably correct. I feel cheated that the mayor has been dragged in to Councilperson Clegg’s destructive mindset and visions. I wish those visions would retire. The mayor needs to say no. Then they follow through on the annex and begin the park. Part of that new park could be short term camping places, for up to 60 days, once per year, so people in crisis can stay and try to work something out. (Like the fairgrounds, but only 60 days.) This would generate some cash for security in the area.

  17. McLean is worse than bieter
    Jun 29, 2021, 11:31 am

    Fowler is locked into building about 100 more houses only on that acreage in the foothills. Trading it means he can get up to 2400 units.

    Follow the money.

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