A story BoiseDev members got first.
Boise County just set the stage for a lot of new residents.
On Monday, Boise County Commissioners unanimously gave the green light for planned community Avimor to expand across the Ada County line and build 1,700 new homes along Highway 55. This newest phase of the community, which has been years in the making, is expected to take 12 to 15 years to complete and stretch over 6,100 acres.
This approval is the latest milestone in Avimor’s buildout of 10,000 homes over 23,000 acres in the Boise foothills spread across Ada, Boise and Gem counties. The project currently has over 659 homes completed in Ada County, along with a community center, a gas station, a brewery and miles of trails and open space accessible to the general public.
First stage of approval
The sign-off from Boise County gives the go ahead for Avimor’s planned community in the county. It comes with its own land-use plan and a customized zoning ordinance to outline what kinds of development can be built where. Avimor will need subsequent approvals from the county for specific plats of homes and commercial development within the project before construction.
Avimor plans to develop closest to the Ada County line first before moving further north toward Pearl Road, developing homes and commercial areas in small clusters across the large area. Roughly half of it will be left for open space, with pockets of development in between.
Land use attorney Jeff Bower, who represents Avimor, told the commissioners the developers originally proposed 1,900 homes for this phase. But, after a series of town halls with Boise County residents they dropped it down to 1,700.
“We were strategic about where we took the homes out of the project,” he said. “Most of our neighbors are near Pearl Road and most of the homes we took out were in that area. We have much lower density up to the north and almost no new homes will be adjacent to any existing homes.”
Public land access concerns
Boise County Commissioners were ultimately supportive of the project and the steps Avimor took to lessen impact on the rural county, but they had hard questions about access to public lands. To the east of Avimor is a section of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, which Avimor general manager Dan Richter said is accessible along old ranch roads through the development.
Anyone can get permission to travel through the area for hunting, but Richter said sometimes they close the access to maintain the road conditions so it is safe for emergency vehicles to access the area without much maintenance.
One of the conditions Boise County Planning & Zoning put on Avimor earlier this year was to request they build a road out to the BLM land. Instead, Richter requested the access remain as is because building a road would increase traffic and potentially damage the environment.
Commissioner Steven Twilegar had some hesitations in voting for the planned community, mostly due to the potential for Avimor to close access to the road and block off Boise County residents from accessing the federal land for hunting or other recreation. He referenced the controversy with Texas billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks closing roads on private property they own in Idaho and blocking access to public lands.
To address this concern, he requested a condition of approval requiring Avimor to be able to manage the condition of the road to keep the quality from degrading, but never completely closing it.
“In Idaho, this is a huge deal,” Twilegar said. “We’ve been shut out by the Texans up here. I have little doubt you’re going to do it, but I don’t trust anybody. I owe it to my constituents to protect their access to public land and I’m going to do it.”
There was no public testimony either for or against the project. The only people in the chambers aside from Boise County staff and the commissioners were representatives working with Avimor and BoiseDev’s reporter.
After nearly two hours of going over the details and debating the requirement the road remains open, the commissioners unanimously approved Avimor’s application. Commissioner Robert T. Holmes said he toured the project prior to becoming a commissioner and was impressed.
“I’ve heard nothing but good about what they’ve already got in Ada County,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything negative.”
Who will answer 911 calls?
One of the big hurdles Avimor faced in getting approval from Boise County was finding an EMS provider.
The section of Avimor in Ada County is served by Ada County Paramedics, but the Boise County section of the development was too far from Horseshoe Bend Ambulance District’s volunteer squad for service. After months of meetings with the Ada County Commissioners, Avimor is in the final negotiations to have Ada County Paramedics serve the entire development.
Avimor proposed to pay membership dues for each household toward the coverage of EMS services throughout the development for the first decade, with the developer paying more for homes in Boise and Gem counties. Membership dues for Ada County will be $60 per household and Avimor will pay $75 annually for each home in Boise and Gem counties.
A financial analysis of the agreement conducted by Ada County Paramedics found this will boost the bottom line of Ada County Paramedics, according to Chief Shawn Rayne. He said projections for annual calls to Avimor are low, with only 81 calls per year expected in 2041. This means a new station wouldn’t be required in the area until the project is completed.
“When we looked at all of that, and there’s a graph that shows expenses versus revenue, obviously we’re bringing in a lot more revenue than we would have on expenses because there isn’t anticipated capital costs up there for quite some time.”
ITD caps development… for now
The Idaho Transportation Department also put some stipulations on the project.
The department capped Avimor’s building in Boise County to 600 homes so it can further study the project’s impacts on Highway 55. To reduce traffic, Avimor is planning to construct an underpass at the intersection of the highway and McLeod Way, north of the development to help cars cross the highway between sections of Avimor without impacting through traffic. This will include acceleration and deceleration lanes for cars to merge into Avimor at the main entrance.
Engineering for this project is underway and it is anticipated to be completed at the end of 2022, which coincides with the first homes being completed on the Boise County side of the project, Bower said. ITD will later revisit the development and how the traffic improvements, including additional turn lanes further north along Highway 55, impacted traffic and possibly lift the cap so building can continue.
“The idea is in 4 to 6 years as we reach (600 homes) we can collaborate with ITD to refine the traffic mitigation that’s needed,” Bower said. “That’s better for them and better for us because they’re going to see what other improvements and the traffic counts will be like on 55. Everyone agrees tonight that what we’re proposing tonight is sufficient to serve 600 homes and as we reach that threshold we’ll revisit.”