The city’s short-lived consideration of annexing the Southwest area of impact, a 10-square-mile area of unincorporated Ada County that would have added 34,000 people to Boise, is over, at least for now.
Mayor Lauren McLean has told neighborhood leaders that annexation of the already well-developed area would cost city taxpayers too much and benefit Boise too little. The city’s current annexation plans includes only land where developers want to build new housing, plus some property the city already owns.
The news is a blow to some Southwest residents who hoped that annexation would lead to more city services such as parks and sewers.
Southwest neighborhood leaders were invited to meet with officials on July 22 to discuss plans for the area.
The meeting included Southwest Ada County Alliance President Marisa Keith, South Cole neighborhood President Kathy Corless, McLean, City Council President Elaine Clegg and Parks and Recreation Department Director Doug Holloway.
Keith and Corless had hoped annexation would be considered after a meeting with McLean the week of June 28 at which the mayor said the city was conducting an analysis to see if it was feasible. The Southwest area lies roughly between Cole and Eagle roads, north of Lake Hazel Road and south of Victory Road.
Park promise revives old debate
On July 22, city officials had changed their tune. They no longer believed a large-scale annexation was worth considering.
“The mayor shared during the meeting with both Southwest Neighborhood Association leaders that based on current analysis, it does not make financial sense to annex the Southwest Area of Impact at this time,” Bonnie Shelton, interim communications officer for the Mayor’s Office, confirmed by email.
The decision marks a reversal from earlier decades, when the city was annexing sections of the Southwest against the will of many residents. Residents fought back by taking their concerns to the Legislature. In 2008, the Legislature required cities obtain written consent from a majority of property owners. City leaders, lacking that majority, then dropped their annexation plans.
That lasted until June, when officials announced plans to annex the Murgoitio parcel, a 157-acre property owned by the city.
Land covenants on the parcel have long protected it from development in anticipation of it one day becoming a regional park. When city officials disclosed this summer that they planned to remove those covenants and annex the parcel for a housing development, neighbors organized to stop them and to demand the park they were promised.
After a week of protests and conversations, the city pressed pause on the Murgoitio process. The Planning and Zoning Commission will wait until February to consider Murgoitio annexation, the removal of its land covenants and whether the city can sell the property.
City officials still plan to annex other Southwest areas that have not yet been developed so that housing can be built on them. Two such parcels are Murio Farms, a proposed 383-acre planned community south of 5 Mile Creek, and Boise School District land, immediately north of the Murgoitio Farms parcel, that was recently sold to a housing developer.
The city said it doesn’t want to build an expensive park for residents outside city limits. That led to discussions on whether the entire Southwest should be brought into those limits.
Southwest price tag too steep
The decision to not annex the area boiled down to money.
During a recent work session session, Parks Superintendent Jennifer Tomlinson said the city would have to provide an urban level of services to the Southwest. She said that would mean adding 60 to 70 police staffers, 20 to 25 support staffers, a new fire station with additional firefighters and a fire engine, a new library, remodeling the county’s Pearl Jenson and Wrigley parks, and adding streetlights and animal services.
The county would require the city to provide those services immediately, but the city would not be able to receive property taxes from annexed homes for a year. Keith and Corless were told the city did not have the money to pay the upfront costs.
“Once we certify an annexation, we have a gap in timing of one year before we can start to collect (property taxes) on that annexation, but we have to provide services basically the next day,” Tomlinson told City Council. “So we have to, I don’t want to say put the services on a credit card for a year, but it’s kind of something similar to that, in that we have to front the money in order to get the services out there.”
However, the Southwest remains an area of impact, meaning the city still plans to annex it eventually and continues to take park impact fees from anyone building there. The Parks and Recreation Department has spent those fees — totaling $10.5 million — on Southwest city parks Peppermint and Molenaar, as well as the larger regional parks inside city limits.
“It feels like kicking the can down the road and it being not their problem,” Corless said in a phone interview. “They want the good land. They want to take the park. They want to sell that off. But they don’t want all these issues. But at some point in time, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get things done and take a look at it.”
Members of nonprofit Friends of Murgoitio plan to attend the Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing that will consider the annexation of the Boise School District land that borders Murgoitio. It will take place on 6 p.m. on Aug. 9 at City Hall.
“There’s a trust issue,” David King, cofounder of Friends of Murgoitio, said by phone. “We have to oversee what the city actually does and see that they don’t do anything with Murgoitio park.”
Sally Krutzig covers Treasure Valley growth and development. Have a story suggestion or a question? Email Krutzig at firstname.lastname@example.org.