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Boise told developer it would try to create urban renewal area before formal process launched

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In July, BoiseDev reported on a new development near the Boise Airport that could bring 22 new industrial buildings to the area.

In 2017, Mayor Dave Bieter signed an agreement with The Boyer Company of Salt Lake City, setting up a long-term lease for land the City owns on Eisemann Rd.

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The property is now part of an urban renewal area the city set up the following year.

The contract contained a stipulation that the “City will take necessary steps and collaborate with the Capitol City Development Corporation… to establish an urban renewal district.”

The mayor signed the contract on December 19, 2017. The Boise City Council approved the contract earlier that fall on the consent agenda – a rundown of items considered routine and approved by one vote.

A quick process

The process to create the urban renewal area happened quickly through 2018, and launched at the beginning of 2019.

Idaho State Code puts together strict guardrails for how and when an urban renewal area can be created.

“An urban renewal project for an urban renewal area shall not be planned or initiated unless the local governing body has, by resolution, determined such area to be a deteriorated area or a deteriorating area or a combination thereof and designated such area as appropriate for an urban renewal project.”

The contract with Boyer came before the City of Boise made the formal determination the land qualified as deteriorated, and before the creation of the district. It promised, in effect, that the City would do what it could to ensure the urban renewal area was created.

City of Boise spokesperson Mike Journee said that while the contract with Boyer came before the required studies, the city planned to bring urban renewal to the desert for nearly two decades.

“We’ve been looking at that Gateway District since at least 2001 when they did that first eligibility study – it’s been around a long time – at least 20 years now.”

BoiseDev obtained the 2001 eligibility study on the area, which does include the land leased by Boyer. The city did not move forward at the time, and did not pass a resolution determining the area qualified for an urban renewal area.

Journee emphasized a line in the contract with Boyer that provides for an alternative plan if no URA is created.

“The intent was that Boyer agreement would go forward with or without the URD,” Journee said. “We knew we needed that park out there.”

‘Chicken and egg:’ what constitutes planning?

The city’s approach to creating new urban renewal areas has been under the microscope, with the quick approval of two new districts, two more under consideration, and expansion of another.

During a forum organized by Rep. John Gannon centering on the possibility of urban renewal on the Boise Bench, the City of Boise’s Darren Fluke assured residents that the city doesn’t plan for urban renewal before the process required by Idaho State Code takes place.

“We didn’t engage the residents in the process of the study because state code has very strict rules on what can and cannot be included,” he said in May. “As we move forward with the development of the urban renewal plan, there will be a lot more opportunities for community engagement.”

Fluke admitted the city was working on a project to move the petroleum tank farm on the Boise Bench to an alternate site, a story BoiseDev first broke in 2016.

Journee said he isn’t aware of any specific agreements on the Bench similar to the Boyer project.

“Our interpretation of the code is that planning… is a formal planning process,” he said. “It’s a chicken and the egg process – you can’t start planning unless you’re talking. The code is clear we are talking about a formal process and that’s not the situation here.”

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