Southwest residents were gearing up for a fight at an Aug. 9 public hearing on the fate of a piece of Southwest Boise property that they’d been promised would become a regional park.
But Mayor Lauren McLean is throwing in the towel — at least for now.
McLean has announced her intention to slow down the process to put housing on the 157-acre Murgoitio parcel, though she still hopes housing will be developed there.
The city is putting a pause on the removal of land covenants protecting the site from development, annexation of the property into Boise and a surplus declaration that would allow the land to be sold.
The Aug. 9 Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on Southwest annexations and rezoning will not include the Murgoitio parcel. Because the commission only hears this type of recommendation every six months, Murgoitio parcel changes will not be considered until at least February 2022.
The City Council will discuss the next steps in the process at its Aug. 17 work session.
Earlier this month, the mayor called off a potential land swap that would have given the land to the Harris family, who wanted to develop it into housing, in exchange for 250 acres of Foothills land. The deal ended after a new appraisal found the Murgoitio project to be worth up to $38 million compared with the $15 million Harris land.
“Now that the potential land trade is off the table involving property the city of Boise owns between South Maple Grove Road and South Cole Road in Ada County, the city is taking stock of the updated value of the property and listening to community feedback related to its future before moving forward with the next steps in the annexation process,” McLean said in a press release. “I’ve heard the calls from community members to slow down and engage, and I intend to do that.”
Residents have been protesting the covenant removals, saying they should get the park they have been promised for more than 20 years. Southwest Boise leaders have been upset at the city’s refusal to engage with the community about the site.
The mayor said she plans to ensure the city is more open about the process. She said her staff will give monthly Murgoitio updates to the public and create a plan for the site by the end of the year.
“I understand that there is a high level of interest in how this process moves forward, and for that reason I have also asked staff to provide monthly updates – open to the public – to the Boise City Council on their work,” McLean said. “I encourage those who are invested in the future of the Murgoitio parcel to get involved.”
However, it seems housing is still not off the table for Murgoitio.
“I believe we can accomplish a variety of goals with the 157-acre Murgoitio parcel,” McLean said. “This includes prioritizing housing at affordable rates that is desperately needed for Boise residents and the desire for a park at the site. I have directed staff to take the time needed to create a proposed plan that best serves the residents of the city and to create a proposal for meaningful community engagement. I have asked for this planning to be completed by the end of the year.”
At a private meeting last week, McLean declined requests by Southwest neighborhood presidents to slow the process and engage with the Southwest community by either attending a neighborhood meeting or conducting a survey.
But the mayor seemed to have a change of heart after enjoying a different park.
“I also received a call from Mayor McLean today explaining after our meeting on Thursday 22 with Parks Director Doug Holloway, City Council President Elaine Clegg SWACA president Marisa Keith, she went backpacking with her family,” Kathy Corless, president of the South Cole Neighborhood Association said by email. “When she returned she advised her staff to slow the process.”
Corless hopes this will give the area more time to persuade the city to keep its promise of building a park.
“The goal is have a regional park that will serve all residents in Boise regardless of area of town, and slowing the process will allow time to work together to meet this goal,” she said.
Sally Krutzig covers Treasure Valley growth and development. Have a story suggestion or a question? Email Krutzig at firstname.lastname@example.org.