City Government

SW Boise: “We Get No Respect”

GUEST OPINION

By Rachael Grotsky, Chief Administrative Officer of Friends of Murgoitio Park, and David King, President

Recent news articles have injudiciously placed the problem of annexation squarely on the shoulders of county-dwellers, claiming that the City of Boise has repeatedly shelved the annexation process because residents fought it so hard. The issue is more complex than localized citizen kick-back and has more to do with the City’s lack of direction as it stumbles over the building blocks of civic growth. Let us not forget that in 2008, the real estate market collapsed, and the country entered a recession, and that is perhaps the real reason for the sudden halting of multiple large-scale annexation projects in Boise, including that of the Southwest.

The annexation issue is one of uncoordinated planning and egregious mismanagement, coupled now with shades of panic—even desperation—in these years of unprecedented growth. There are fundamental financial problems at work in the City. While Boise could use a new library, to be sure, it is criminally irresponsible to pursue the construction of a $104 million dollar library complex in a City of our stature, in our fiscal situation. Not coincidentally, when that project was subjected to the critique of the public, Boise’s budget director suddenly vacated his position. It is similarly short-sighted to rely on impact fees for development—it is poor fiscal policy, and the City has been cautioned to this effect.

When Councilman Jimmy Hallyburton says of expanding City services that “a lot of that stuff comes through impact fees when development happens,” he is admitting that the City simply cannot afford its growth, whether before development or afterward. They cannot afford to build the infrastructure in advance of development—a legal requirement—nor can they afford it after development, because now they miss out on the collection of impact fees.

Nor do fees always go to the areas they are collected from, or to which they are ostensibly designated. As Southwest Boise has grown, the City has collected millions from the region in park impact fees. But times change, and so does leadership, and instead of spending these impact fees on Murgoitio Park, the City leapt over the source of the money and spent the bulk of it in developing and constructing a “Proposed Large Urban Park,” a neat topper for the ribbon of extant parks in downtown Boise. This was Esther Simplot Park.

Murgoitio Park has been used tactically when convenient to the City and stripped of status when inconvenient. The Murgoitio acreage has always been included in the city’s list of park assets. The total value of these park assets is used to compute the Level of Service—the standard by which the City determines necessary impact fees required to deliver the same service to new areas needing parks. Having served this computational purpose for other regions, the Murgoitio parcel’s own potential to serve is being submarined with unprecedented haste.

The overstep of the current administration toward this fast-track annexation smacks of desperation, and worse—of unfair advantage for the few. Records suggest that the City originally presented the current annexation proposal to the Boise School District under the pretense of finally constructing a park on the Murgoitio site. The School District did not learn about the proposed residential development of the property for weeks after they handed over written consent. To further compound confusion, City staff have been cutting corners regarding public information, waiving procedure prior to neighborhood meetings, and leaving staff unprepared to answer residents’ questions. Many questions have gone unanswered entirely. The City is insisting on an expedited process.

The annexation controversy has little, if anything, to do with the real issue, which is a total breach of commitment to care. The City made a commitment to provide the people of the southwest a regional park to be proud of—a venue to benefit not only the southwest region but the entire City of Boise.

The region has been in the Boise City Area of Impact (AOI) since the early 1980s, and since 1995 this area has been subject to AOI park impact fees, City land-use ordinance, and adherence to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Southwest Boise is not a new inclusion under the umbrella of policy, and when its denizens mark an envelope with their return address, the City they mark is “Boise.” They work in Boise, and they shop in Boise. Let us not argue that Boise does not reciprocate, does not appreciate that the Southwest arm of the City is the overworked limb on a wide, ever-reaching body.

Some news articles have stated that Murgoitio Park was never included in the City’s Capital Improvement Plan, and this is simply untrue. Murgoitio Park is referenced comprehensively, countless times, in various plans and projects spanning the last two decades, including the Capital Improvement Plan for impact fees. It has long been included in impact fee studies. Over the years, professionals have been hired to analyze the site and draw up detailed presentations, the results of which have been accessible in the City’s records throughout the last two decades. And the record shows plans to begin construction were being made and funding from donors was being secured.

These plans have, until this very summer, been the backbone of many home sales in the southwest area. Real estate agents in unincorporated Southwest Boise habitually use Murgoitio Park plans as a sales tactic, printing maps and details for potential buyers, lauding the tremendous boon of having such a masterpiece property nearby. The City promised it. Deals were made on its promise.

Some of us, in recent days, have heard the suggestion, “If you wanted to live in a nicer part of town, you should have moved there instead.” Though this sentiment baffles the senses, it sadly seems to represent the ethos of the current administration. There appears to be a distinct effort by Councilmembers, by Parks and Rec. department, and by Mayor McLean to downplay and diminish the very real disparity of park access between Southwest Boise and its neighbors to the North and East.

To sweep the City’s obfuscation off the table, the Board of Friends of Murgoitio Park unanimously resolved to support the City’s annexation of all necessary portions of the park’s residential areas of impact in conjunction with the completion of the park and the preservation of all its current land use restrictions. Residents in the Southwest—those within and outside of the City limits—are organizing as if their families’ well-being depends on it. It does depend on it. All of Boise deserves the type of vision that recognized the wisdom of setting aside enough land to ensure that as Boise grows, it will not lose one of its most defining and desirable attributes: Its remarkable system of equitably accessible parks and opens space.

PRESS RELEASE 7.25.21

Comments & Discussion

19 comments for “SW Boise: “We Get No Respect””

  1. Dave Kangas
    Jul 24, 2021, 9:35 pm

    Once something gets off track, it is really hard to it back on track. Have you ever tried to get a wobbling top to spin correctly without stopping it and starting over? This whole process has sucked from the beginning. It is time to STOP, regroup and collectively, as a community, decide the future of 100’s of acres of OUR LAND. Let’s not forget this is our land, not the City Council’s, the Mayor’s or Parks and Rec. it is our land, we paid for it. The public deserves it’s due process to decide it’s fate.

    Unfortunately, the City after 15 months of behind closed door meetings between a limited few selected individuals and a single developer have decided on a path without checking in with the rest of us.

    This is about the future of Boise’s fastest growing area, home to half of Boise’s population and growing. Not the past. Too much has been made of quarrels from 20 years ago. Quality of life should mean just as much out here as it does along the river and in the north end. But it doesn’t feel like it does.

    Parks and Rec claims they don’t have the funds to green up this park. Yet, over the last 20 years how many millions have been spent elsewhere. How many many millions have been raised and spent elsewhere? How many millions will be spent in the next 20 years? This is a treasure for our future. Bestowed upon us by past leaders with vision looking to the future.

    The City of Boise- the Mayor’s office has decided to fast track all aspects of this issue. Despite the negative responses of hundred if not thousands. Despite the angst of citizen organizations, neighborhood associations even legislators, this marches on.

    Who has ever seen an annexation without a development plan? Why would you do that when no developer can? Who has heard of a rezone without a development plan? Who decided that this should be R-1M- medium density residential? The same people that thought swapping out this land with a connected developer was a good idea, especially if they could do it before anyone realized what was happening.

    Friends of Murgoitio have done everything right. They are organized, hired attorneys, listened to suggestions and have the support of hundreds if not thousands of local residents and legislators.

    On the other hand the City of Boise has done everything wrong. Behind closed door meetings. Conflicts of interest. Ignored public apathy and public engagement. Can you imagine how we would have responded if Ada County had just auctioned off the fairgrounds? At least they engaged the public in determining the future of 247 acres while the City of Boise barrels on forth with their narrow vision.

    No one knows what the future of this land will be, because the community has not been allowed to decide it’s future. It is being chosen, decided for us, by a select few, whether we like it or not.

  2. McLean is worse than Bieter
    Jul 25, 2021, 8:17 am

    The moral of the story is, if Boise can do this to them, they’ll do it to anybody. Nothing will prevent them from taking undeveloped taxpayer owned land or even park developed taxpayer land and shilling it to a developer for more housing for people who don’t even live here AND the property taxes.

    All Boise residents should be very concerned by McLean’s totally untransparent actions and the lock step go along don’t raise any objections don’t make waves city council.

  3. These are exactly the type of spot-on comments that are needed to counteract the blather and mixed messages emanating from our city ‘leaders’ (including the syncophatic bureaucrats who scurry around City Hall with their ‘outreach messages’, ‘policy initiatives’ and ‘long-range planning’ scenarios).

    Kudos to the authors of this post! I want to use my gov’t relations skills to help you.

  4. So Mclean, Clegg, et al. want people to move to a nicer part of town? Beware that these “nicer parts of town” are very rapidly being made UN-nice by the City’s Build Baby Build mania. AND any place that has not yet been hit hard by out of control “densification” will get slammed if the City’s consultant-led radical Up Zoning juggernaut comes to fruition. The Up Zoning is proceeding very quietly, with few people paying attention and a hand-picked citizens advisory committee is being fed info favorable to cutting the public nearly entirely out of the process. All so dense apartment complexes can be built in any place in any neighborhood in the City. This raises a question in my mind: At one of the City Council Murgoitio Work Sessions, Jennifer Tomlinson, part of the Parks and Rec development machine, spoke about the Zone category the city plans to place the Murgoitio De-parked? Un-parked? lands in. I forget what the category is called – Common Use? Complex? Anyway, I assume that any constraints on whatever category the De-parked Murgoitio lands would be placed in could be readily changed – with no real public process -if the City pulls off its huge Upzoning gift to developers? No one City action taking place right now can be viewed in isolation.

  5. Linnae Costello
    Jul 25, 2021, 10:30 am

    NOT JUST A SOUTHWEST ISSUE!!!
    The regional park envisioned by the City in the ’90’s would not just benefit Southwest Boise, but also those of us on the Bench and in West Boise. The City has concentrated the vast majority of our tax-funded Parks & Recreation resources in areas adjacent to and north of the river. We have spent millions of dollars acquiring foothills property, which is fine and was a worthwhile endeavor (although I do question why Boise purchased land in Boise County), but the majority of that land is not even accessible and provides an altogether different experience than that which would be afforded by the development of the Murgoitio Park. As a Bench-dweller, it will be much easier for me to travel to Murgoitio Park than to make my way through a congested downtown and North End to access the few available trailheads for the foothills. And I believe that is true for the residents of West Boise also. I understand the City plans to float YET another $10 million levy for more foothills acquisitions, which I will not support. I would much rather pay for a levy to finally develop the Murgoitio Park.

  6. This whole issue has further revealed how the land development/investment industry uses the Parks Dept. to serve as its hand maiden for a real-life game of Monopoly. Makes me think the former fire chief also served as “the middle-man” in this game. Thank you Boise Guardian for once again bringing this topic to the attention of the public. It is far more pervasive than most people realize.

  7. Alice Horrell
    Jul 25, 2021, 8:45 pm

    Our home is off Maple Grove and we love living here. We love and purchased here because it was rural. However, due to all the construction of new homes off Lake Hazel, the traffic is already unbelievable. I cannot imagine what this would be like should the city be allowed to move forward with their plans and construct homes as they have proposed. This is just too much!! Please listen to the people—no more construction! Save this precious area and turn it into the park it was promised to be. Save this space for our future generations—our children, grand children and great grand children deserve it. Once it is gone, it’s gone forever. “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot!”

  8. List of hands in cookie jar please.
    Jul 26, 2021, 6:59 am

    There has been multiple gigantic transactions arrangements such as the library project, several land swaps, and now the $100M miscalculation of the park land. Even if the error was only $15M, that is so large it can’t possibly be a genuine oversight. I request the local media give the public a list of the players, both public and private, who’ve repeatedly had their hand in this recurring cookie jar. How many smaller still unnoticed of these padded transactions?

  9. Paul Mitchell
    Jul 26, 2021, 9:52 am

    Have I missed something in the news around here the last 30 – 40 years: a loud clamor of SW Boise begging to be annexed and become part of Boise City???? Nope, I haven’t. As Carmel’s deep dive presented, “Between the 1970s and 1990s, the City of Boise spent millions toward building sewer infrastructure in Southwest Boise after residents opted not to form their own sewer districts” — and here is where we have the problem, while claiming rurality this area has been throttling towards urbanity for a very long time. I’ve literally never read one sentence stating “SW Boise” wanted to become a part of their namesake City until the freebie park was pulled off the table. I can’t excuse the amateur hour on display by McLean, Hallyburton et al but laying this debacle on the City is rich. You either want to be part of the City or you don’t… and anyone that’s been here more than 2 years is aware that the County is very proud of not being the City.

  10. It is not actually Boise, so that’s a start. People live in SW ADA because it is cheap. It is cheap because those people are cheap and they are satisfied with cheap living. That is why they get no respect and no amenities. No decent shopping. Walmart and other dealers of cheap crap are the only stores there. The residents drive to Boise city parks instead of paying for a close-by park. Just like other places in Ada County. Are there any nice parks in Kuna? Star? No. Those people all drive to nice Boise parks. And they pollute our air and jam up the streets and parking to do it. Does the mayor drive to a park?Of course, not. Look at the visitors of Boise’s new parks at Quinn’s pond. Who floats the Boise river? Cheap trash. Probaly from SW Boise. And that is exactly why they trash the river and Boise parks with their garbage. They don’t respect themselves or our parks. Cheap! Those people should be sending thank you notes to the Boise council since they use Boise parks and don’t have to pay full rate. Cheapskates don’t get nice parks! It has nothing to do with city government. Those people don’t want to pay for nice parks and amenities, that is why they don’t already have such places. Corey Barton and Hubble houses are more proof. Cheap!

  11. No Respect – It is Boise when understanding how Idaho’s Area of City Impact law works, which is referred to as the AOCI in various governing documents. This SW area is in Boise’s AOCI, which designates an area that a city expects to annex in the future and its creation is governed by the provisions of Idaho Code 67- 6528.

    It is Boise that is “cheaping out” on most all other areas of Boise except for the spending in the north and east ends. And the AOCI currently pays the highest amount for the Regional Park Impact Fee of the seven collection areas; $807 versus $167 to $797.

    Jennifer Tomlinson of the Parks Dept. has said at least $10 million in park impact fees has come from development permits in this part of Boise’s AOCI. The park impact fees have been collected in this area since 1995, but somewhere along the line the City arbitrarily chose not to spend the fees in this part of the AOCI so they could spend them elsewhere, including $6 million that went to the Regional Parks located downtown. The City says they cannot spend until annexed but the record shows they spent park impact fees on Optimist Youth Sports Complex before it was annexed in 2015.

    In 2011, the City made it look like they spent park impact fees in the SW AOCI by moving the designated collection area boundary line to the north, from Victory Road to I-84, which magically made Peppermint and Molenaar Parks be in the SW collection area rather than their original collection area of the West Bench. I would attach the maps to show this if I could.

    It’s easy to color outside the lines and move the goalposts when the citizens are not closely watching and the majority of elected and appointed positions do not live anywhere near the areas that are receiving far less in tax-and-fee supported services.

  12. If the folks in SW Boise think for one minute that Murgoitio property will become a park within the next 30 years….. even if the city annexed it and says yes we will build a park….are not facing reality. One of the latest parks that the city has done is Bowler Park. Property was donated/Purchased by the city in 1995. It has 25 acres…. 19 ares were left undeveloped. It took 26 years for this park to be built. And the cost of Bowler Park was nothing like the cost people in SW expect to be done on Murgoitio.

    Boise Parks also has many on going cost… green belt replacement…. 2 pools that have been shut down for maintenance issues ($2.4 million per pool so they say)….along with a list of other smaller parks in the city that have been promised to be built…. some promised longer than your promise.

    Maybe the SW folks should step up and try to buy the property or get one of the rich people in Boise that have foundations to buy it for a private park only for the SW neighbors.

    If not you might want to consider when the property is developed and it has a small park included, to get involved with the developer and come up with a nice park that could be done in a couple of years.

  13. Branden Durst
    Jul 27, 2021, 8:44 am

    When I represented District 18 in the legislature, I always made a point of making to give as much attention (possibly more) to my SW precincts as the rest of my district. I found out that this was pretty unusual as they had just sort of been forgotten. My good friend, Vern Bisterfeldt, used to tell me how much his neighbors appreciated knowing that he was in the City Council fighting for them and I tried to follow suit. SW Boise really doesn’t get respect. Its time to elect leaders who care about their issues and will do something about it.

  14. Really, what’s the number of people in so called SW Boise?

    The parks are near where the people live and recreate. Most properties in S Boise are larger lots. They can run their dogs on their lawns without goose poop and homeless people.

    A map of Boise parks shows less density and less # of parks south of the freeway. Hello, airport noise!
    Who wants to visit a park with a 737 bursting a take-out?

    “Acres of park/per resident” within a 5 mile radius, is probably comparable. Most Northend parks are old and have been there forever. The other gems along the river have been donated. Are any other property owner in SW Boise going to donate 50 acres for another park? David King, do you have 100 acres to donate?

    West Boise has the fairly new Optimist parks and SE Boise has Simplot fields. I suppose northenders could complain they don’t have adequate giant sports fields for tournaments.

    In any case, develop the MP with a pond sufficient to propagate e-coli, and definitely include a homeless shelter. Then, SW residents can stop crying!

  15. “Taxation without representation”?
    Most of Boise City’s elected, appointed and hired public servants come across as unqualified for their positions. I’m sure most public servants are put in place for payback by elected public servants. We pay to have a public servant spin issues! Then we have the CCDC calling the shots for Boise’s growth? Who is paying for the downtown park at 11th street? Next to a CCDC property? Or the over built 8th street and sidewalk redo in front of state buildings? Do state buildings pay property tax? The redo of ninth street in front of city and state properties? As we continually put elected public servants on a pedestal they will act accordingly. I’ll put up with the disrespect but not the dis-representation.

  16. Impact Fees & This Park
    Jul 28, 2021, 12:06 am

    I wish more people understood the statutory methodology for calculating impact fees and were also aware of the shuffling and sweeping that has occured with these fees.

  17. Agreed for understanding impact fees and same applies for URDs.

    Great idea for a community ed class or something online put on by the State Legislative Services office (since they are probably the only experts on the topic).

    How much time/money would be people be willing to expend just to understand it- and then to get involved in the budgeting process?

  18. Richard Llewellyn
    Jul 28, 2021, 12:42 pm

    Some of the comments reveal a basic lack of understanding of city geography. Some people lump the Optimist Sports Fields in NW Boise as primarily serving ‘West Boise,’ but these are significantly closer to the North End (Harrison Blvd & Hill Rd) with a 15 minute/7.2 mile drive, compared to central ‘West Boise’ (Fairview & Cloverdale) with a 20 minute/8.8 mile drive. Add another ten minutes for much of SW Boise.
    Anyone familiar with Boise overall understands that west of 36th street, the primary division of Boise is by the river, not the cardinal directions.
    Likewise, the North End is about as close to the Simplot Sports Complex (21 minutes, 8.5 miles) as West Boise is to the Optimist Fields.
    It does seem like City Hall also lacks this basic familiarity with the geography of the City. We also hear that not many people live in SW Boise, so they don’t need a park, but take a look at the new District Map. Almost half of Boise already lives south of the river and west of 36th street, with some of the most dense areas on the western edges of Boise. Soon most Boise residents will live in the West and South, even without new annexations.

  19. Western guy
    Jul 31, 2021, 8:47 pm

    Just what was ‘Frank’s point? Too much rambling, here…

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