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Boise could add new demolition protections for some areas of the city

Some developers looking to demolish buildings in Boise could soon need to slow down.

Boise City Council gave initial approval Tuesday night requiring design review approval before crews tear down certain buildings. The ordinance will require three readings before it becomes law.

The change will require anyone hoping to demolish a building in an office or commercial zone, or a multi-family zone, to wait roughly 15 days to receive design review approval before a demolition permit can be issued. 

This is a change from the city’s current policy. Right now, only buildings within the city’s historic districts are subject to any demolition review. Developers can obtain permits to demolish most buildings in the city in a matter of days. 

[1937 apartments will be torn down, even if condo project isn’t approved]

Josh Wilson, a city staffer, called the proposal a “first step” in a larger conversation around demolition in Boise. As the city grows, activists started to raise concerns about the demolition of historic and unique buildings. They also questioned the waste sent to the landfill from demolished buildings. Wilson said this ordinance will help the city be able to find other solutions for properties, instead of rapid demolition. 

“We realize the continued growth and infill in the city will require the loss of some structures, but with proper planning we feel impacts on neighborhoods can be mitigated and potential alternatives to demolition can be explored,” he said.

Under the new ordinance, neighborhood associations will also get notification of demolition applications. They will get a chance to comment on any proposals.

The Travis Apartments loophole

Travis Apartments
The Travis Apartments at 16th & Bannock in Boise. Photo via Boise PDS

This issue came into focus last summer when developer Creed Herbold requested city approval to build a new five-story condo project on the western edge of downtown Boise. The project required the demolition of the 1937, art deco style Travis Apartment building, which riled preservation activists and residents of the affordably priced complex alike. 

Planning & Zoning denied the project, both for its design and because they did not want to demolish existing affordable housing. Herbold then applied for and received a demolition permit from the City of Boise. City Council approved the project last September, but several members expressed frustration with the lack of a demolition ordinance to halt the building coming down so another solution could be found. 

But what about rural Boise?

Unoccupied buildings, like sheds or garages, will be exempted under the new ordinance. During the public hearing, a few residents testified in favor of the change, but requested more protection for historic barns and other structures on the rural edges of the city. A few city council members expressed support for adding a change to protect barns. Wilson pointed out most rural properties are not subject to the ordinance because they are in zones designated for single-family housing. 

[City council approves dozens of new homes in ‘Music’ project in SW Boise]

Marissa Keith, president of the Southwest Ada County Alliance, called the change an important move toward protecting historic buildings, but wanted to see it expanded to more parts of the city.

“As far as barns, definitely those are important to keep and we have some situations out here in SWACA where the old, old house is now the accessory dwelling unit because the barn was turned into the house,” she said. “Certainly keeping those original properties, the 1800s houses would be important.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev senior reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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