Boise and Meridian, increasingly are one large city with an invisible political border.
But the two cities bring very different approaches to development and growth.
That friction took center stage at Boise City Hall Tuesday, as prolific developer Jim Conger made an unusual request. He asked Boise to let a piece of land move from its area of impact – to Meridian’s.
Conger hopes to build a development of single-family homes as well as apartments, just west of Eagle Rd. But that invisible border in the so-called Delano Subdivision splits the two parcels. One part sits in Meridian’s area, while the other remains in Boise’s.
Conger first applied to Boise last year on the project. But after a discussion with Boise City Council recommending a public hearing, Conger decided to hold off.
He hopes to build about 80 single-family homes in Meridian, and an apartment complex consisting of five buildings and a clubhouse on the Boise side.
Which way should it go?
The council had two options: leave the parcel in its impact, or let it go to Meridian. It weighed a list of pros and cons prepared by staff. By keeping the site in Boise, councilors were told it would keep consistency to the area of impact boundary, allow them to have oversight of the development’s design, and keep potential tax revenue in city coffers.
Planners estimated the tax impact at $60,000 to $125,000 per year.
By letting it go to Meridian, it would lose the design oversight and tax revenue.
“The development before us is not a City of Boise (style) development,” council member Holli Woodings said. “I’m looking at the potential connectivity and the street pattern in Meridian is so much different than what we do here.”
Traffic along busy Eagle Rd. and the streets around it became a prime concern. The development is more akin to Meridian’s development pattern, and would not include access on Eagle Rd. The Idaho Transportation Department limits the number and locations to Eagle Rd. due to its status as a state highway.
“I’m just so troubled by the lack of connectivity and the impact as we’ve heard from the neighbors that it has on the roads that are asked to be the connectors,” council member Elaine Clegg said. “Eagle Road is a mess, we know that. But 30 years from now it might not be a mess and we’ll still be stuck with this infrastructure pattern.”
A big consideration on the project was connecting sewer and water lines. The discussion got into items like lift stations, sewer loops and other wonky details that come with infrastructure.
The future of collaboration
Council President Lauren McLean said that from a sewer and water standpoint, it made sense to let the project move fully to Meridian.
“If we approve this it’s more possible to have the conversation about connectivity with Meridian,” McLean said. “I would ask that the applicant be part of those conversations in areas where our boundaries are touching and roads are not providing the service necessary.”
The newest member of the council, Lisa Sánchez, said she hopes conversations between the cities of the region will continue to grow.
“Our boundaries are growing closer and closer together and we are going to have to start working with each other, but we aren’t there yet,” Sánchez said. “In the future, I hope we will be more in alignment that our community is growing more and more connected.”
Ultimately, the council voted four to one to approve the transfer to Meridian. Only Holli Woodings voted against it.