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Higher or lower: Boise city council makes decision on riverfront condos

Earlier this summer, BoiseDev told you about an abnormal situation: dueling appeals for a project.

Jayo Construction and WHPacific asked to build 304 condos along the Boise River Greenbelt near Kathryn Albertson Park. To execute their plan, they requested the buildings rise to a height of 79 feet. But the limit for the zoning of that parcel is 45 – leading to an application for a height exception.

Joe Scott and his daughter Jamie Jo Scott are two heirs of the Albertson family – and they both live along Houston Rd., with a view over Kathryn Albertson Park. They did not like the height of the project, and asked P&Z to limit it to 45 feet.

In a compromise of sorts, planning and zoning held the project to 63 feet. But that didn’t make either party happy – leading to the dueling appeals.

View, or bulk?

“This isn’t about height, it’s about density,” Joe Scott said after presentations from his representatives. “This is about a special place in our city that I ask you think about preserving and maybe even enlarging. It is a nature park. We continue to spend money to preserve and enhance that park for the city.”

The Albertson Family Foundation recently made a donation to the city for upgrades to the park that bears their matriarch’s name.

But Joann Butler with Butler-Spink said this is less about the park – and more about the view.

“Just two individuals have opposed Trappers Island, because they can see (it) from their home. But they can also see the Zions Bank Building. They cannot create a view easement where there is none.”

The developers proposed lowering the primary height of the building from 79 feet to 70 feet – with a few access stairway to the roof poking above that height. They said that by reducing the height to 63 feet, 85 units would be lost. Going to 45 feet would eliminate 200 of the 304 units.

Mark Bishop, who represented the Scotts, said it wasn’t about a view.

“Mr. Scott and Jamie Scott know they don’t have a view easement. This is about the bulk of the project.”

Moments later, Bishop presented a rendering of the project to the council.

“In our exhibit, you see a view from Joe Scott’s house. There’s an error in (the developer’) documents with regard for what this is going to look like.”

The discussion centered around which of the two party’s dueling renderings was correct – and what constituted the neighborhood for the Trappers Island site. The project sits relatively alone, surrounded by the park, the Boise River and Settlers Canal irrigation land. The Downtown Boise Neighborhood Association, which the site is technically part of, supports the project.

“There’s no way to predict what’s going to get built and what your view is going to look like next week or next month,” Tim Flaherty with the DBNA said. “We know this is changing the face of how it looks but we believe we need the density in our neighborhood and it’s worth it.”

The council decides

Ultimately, the decision went to the city council members, who had an extensive back and forth.

“This is one of those places in our city that is really special. The park is a jewel. This parcel is so unique,” council president Lauren McLean said. “We need to grow our housing. We know we are many homes short. And we need to do that as close to the downtown core as possible – which means dense and up, so our residents can live near where they work.”

“This is five buildings, it provides a lot of housing,” council pro tem Elaine Clegg said. “To me it’s not the bulk but how they address Kathryn Albertson Park. I think the applicant has made a fair effort to make sure that while the buildings will be bulky they will be a little bit different type and a little bit different feel and they address the impact on the park.”

“The decision is pretty easy for me,” council member Scot Ludwig said. “I think this is the wrong project for this location. In my opinion, it has to be the existing height limitation.”

In the end, Ludwig lost to his fellow councilors. They voted 5-1 to approve the project at 70 feet, with a list of potential design adjustments.

Don Day - BoiseDev editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].
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