Many residents of the Warm Springs Mesa expressed concerns with a developer’s proposal to cut back on promised road improvements.
On Monday, developer Mark Tate of M3 Companies briefed the neighborhood on plans to ask the City of Boise and the Ada County Highway District for permission to scale back a 2018 development agreement that requires widening Starview Drive, as well as a sidewalk and bike lane. During the meeting, neighbors peppered Tate and his lawyer with questions about the necessity to not widen the road and his motivations.
Starview is one of three main routes off the Warm Springs Mesa, connecting it with Warm Springs Avenue.
Tate said the decision to scale back the road widening was not meant to deceive neighbors. Instead, it was a practical question because of the instability of the steep slope of Starview his engineers found after geotechnical analysis in 2019. He still plans to widen and ease a tight, blind curve at the top of Starview and substantially improve the intersection with Warm Springs Avenue.
Widening the road to include the bike lane and sidewalk is possible with more intense grading, 15 foot retaining walls and measures to stabilize the road, Tate said, but he’s not sure it’s safe enough in the long term.
“That begs the question, if you’re having to do such radical means to stabilize something, is it something you should be doing in the first place?” Tate said. “That’s why we’re here.”
Monday’s neighborhood meeting was the first step in a lengthy process to approve changes to the plans for Starview. Once Tate files his request, it will go for a public hearing and vote at ACHD, Boise’s Planning & Zoning Commission and Boise City Council.
A long and winding road
The history of the project goes all the way back to 2000. Developer Wise & Sons put in an application two decades ago to build 228 homes on the Warm Springs Mesa in phases. Construction continued for years under Wise & Sons, until Tate took over the project and filed permits for the eight and ninth phase of the lengthy project. These new phases will total 49 new homes.
Back in 2018, the City of Boise and ACHD approved a development agreement requiring improvements to Starview in order to develop the parcels. It included the requirements of improving the hairpin curve at the top, widening the travel lanes, a paved shoulder, sidewalks, bike lane and improvements to the intersection.
Tate originally planned to hold this neighborhood meeting to start the change in the development agreement back in March, but once the pandemic hit he canceled it. Over the summer, Tate filed a surety bond with ACHD so the project could move ahead despite uncertainty about when public gatherings would be allowed again.
This $2.5 million bond is part of standard procedure with ACHD and functions as a down payment to the agency on required road improvements so construction can continue before the improvements are made. If he were to not complete the project by next August or his company defaults, ACHD would take the $2.5 million and complete the project on its own.
Tate fielded many questions from residents about why he posted the bond and then moved to change the project. Fred Hebert, one of the Starview project’s most vocal critics, likened Tate’s presentation to “watching the Wizard of Oz with M3 behind the curtain.”
Hebert and some others raised questions about the signing authority for the surety bond Tate turned into ACHD. They said the original documents attached to the bond say the signing party only had authority to sign for up to $1 million, but the full bond value was $2.5 million.
ACHD spokesperson Natalie Shaver said Monday afternoon the wrong power of attorney was attached to the bond first, but the proper documentation has since been filed with the highway district.
Neighbors suggested a variety of alternatives, like asking the city and ACHD to use eminent domain to completely change the location of the road to lessen the steep slope and purchasing private land at the bottom of the road for the project. Tate said he still planned to put a multi-use path at the top of the road, but the bottom of the curve was where the major concerns were with the slope not being stable enough to widen.
He said if ACHD and the City of Boise voted to continue to require the original plans be built he would complete it as directed, but he questioned the long-term impacts.
“Both the options are going to cost a lot of money,” he said. “It’s really just, is this worth potentially causing stability issues by digging into that slope and reconstructing that road and is that something ACHD and the city of Boise want to do?”