The battle over the height of a proposed condo project on the Boise River continues with a key legal ruling.
After Boise’s Planning & Zoning Commission and Boise City Council handed down decisions they disagreed with, Albertson’s heirs Joe and Jamie Jo Scott took their disapproval to court.
The legal battle centers on Trappers Island, a proposed 304-unit condo development on the banks of the Boise River. As first reported by the Idaho Statesman, a judge ruled on the case in July and gave neither the Scott’s or developer Jayo Co. what they wanted.
Fourth District Court Judge Patrick Miller ruled Boise City Council acted arbitrarily in its decision to grant Jayo Co. a 70-foot height exception. Instead, the earlier decision from P&Z of a 63-foot height exception will stand.
Trapper’s Island drew the ire of the Scotts for its height and location in their viewshed of the foothills from the Central Rim. They also raised concerns about the development’s proximity to Kathryn Albertson Park, which their family donated, and the Boise River Greenbelt. Those in opposition hoped for the city would require the project to stick to the 45-foot height limit allowed for the parcel. Jayo Co. requested 80 feet in its original application.
Boise P&Z opted for a middle ground. Commissioners liked the project but felt the height should more align with the nearby 63 foot tall River’s Edge project. Commissioners also noted several times during the proceedings views are not relevant in urban planning decisions in Idaho Code.
Appel to City Council
Both the Scotts and Jayo Co. appealed the decision to Boise City Council claiming P&Z’s decision was arbitrary. The Scotts hoped for the 45-foot height, while the developer was shooting for something higher. Boise City Council voted to increase the height limit to 70 feet to ensure the project could hold all 304 units originally proposed.
The Scott’s sued over this decision, hoping a judge would rule the decision arbitrary and stop the project. They also alleged in their suit approving the project was in the interest of the city because of the Shoreline urban renewal district approved in 2019.
This decision is where the city of Boise ran into legal trouble. In appeals, council members may only look at the facts studied by P&Z when deciding if it made an arbitrary and capricious decision. There can be no new fact-finding, and they cannot reverse the decision because they disagree with it. Council is merely deciding if there was an error in P&Z’s ruling.
Miller decided the City Council acted outside its authority in the decision to change the height to 70 feet.
“The question is whether the City Council acted within its appellate authority,” the decision said. “And even though the City Council is entitled to strong presumption, the Court finds that based on its review of the record as whole, the City Council did not have basis upon which to find P&Z’s decision was arbitrary as the term is defined within the City Code.”
The case will now go back to the City Council and it will have to affirm P&Z’s height of 63 feet.
The decision also squarely struck down the Scotts’ assertion city council made its decision to benefit the Shoreline urban renewal district.
In an initial filing, the Scotts’ attorney argued the project would be a boon to the urban renewal district at one time proposed to finance the proposed downtown Boise sports park. At the time of the initial hearings on Trapper’s Island in the fall of 2019 the developer had already announced plans to move the stadium out of the urban renewal district to another location. (The project proposal again moved to a site near Garden City).
“…The Petitioners imply that the City Council’s evaluation of the conditional use criteria might have been influenced by the goal of generating tax increment funding for the new urban renewal district,” the decision said. “On the record as Whole, the Court does not believe the record reflects the P&Z or City Council in any way considered the Developer’s representatives’ reference to tax increment revenue (Which of course is irrelevant to the issues before the City).”
Miller also disagreed with the Scotts’ arguments asserting Trapper’s Island was too large to fit on the site and is not compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.