Ada County Highway District will move its maintenance yard out of its longtime location near the Boise River. But it does not mean the agency’s long-running dispute with the City of Garden City is over.
The small city and ACHD have been at loggerheads for months about the location of a multi-story salt shed on Adams Street along the Greenbelt. ACHD announced late last week it plans to relocate the maintenance yard to Apple Street in Southeast Boise and expand operations west with a new facility in Meridian.
But ACHD says there’s one problem.
Relocating the maintenance yard and salt shed to Boise is expected to take “between four and seven years,” according to ACHD Director Bruce Wong. But, Garden City opted not to grant ACHD an extension to keep the salt shed in place last month. It’s unclear exactly what happens next and if the courts will have the final say.
Salt shed politics
This dispute goes back to 2018.
ACHD requested approval from Garden City to put up the shed covering their pile of salt and sand to protect it from the elements after the major snowstorms over the course of the 2016-2017 winter season. Garden City granted them a conditional use permit for the salt shed, but only for three years with the understanding ACHD would either remove the salt shed or relocate this part of their operation elsewhere before it expired.
Then, the permit crept closer to its June 2021 end date, and Garden City wanted the shed gone, but ACHD was not ready to move. Mayor John Evans said although he appreciates ACHD’s decision to move the entire maintenance yard off of Adams Stree so it can have a “higher and better use,” he says the city only wants the shed to be removed, not the entire operation. He called the structure “overwhelming.”
“(ACHD) asked for five years, but Planning & Zoning said three,” Evans said, referencing the 2017 approval. “It was an expansion of our code frankly because our code on a temporary thing says it should have been limited to 6 months. It got approved because of the conditions at the time, which was perceived to be an unusual circumstance with snow up to our eyeballs.”
ACHD vehemently disagrees with Garden City and argues it is well within its right to keep the shed in place.
ACHD officials argue the agency has a constitutional right to keep it in place because the salt pile is a legal non-conforming use, and this means the shed protecting the pile required by environmental regulations must be allowed as well.
“The Shed is part and parcel of the same historical use of the Adams Yard to store materials and equipment related to road maintenance, including the storage of sand and salt—uses which have been in place for approximately 50 years and prior to the adjacent residential neighborhoods,” ACHD Commission President Kent Goldthorpe wrote in a lengthy letter to the City of Garden City at the end of April. “The shed has no other purpose. Moreover, the shed does not increase activity at the Adams Yard or increase traffic on the nearby public roads; nor does it increase the amount of noise, light, or dust on or around the Adams Yard.”
Dispute could lead to court
After Garden City declined to give ACHD a one-year extension on the conditional use permit for the shed in June 2020, ACHD took Garden City to court and requested judicial review of the decision in October.
ACHD requested the suit be temporarily halted at the end of 2020 while they proposed changes to Idaho code at the statehouse in the 2021 legislative session to exempt them from local planning laws. This would have effectively decided the issue in ACHD’s favor before it could even hit a courtroom.
But, after widespread opposition from every city in Ada County, all three Ada County Commissioners, and a land-use association, the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee unanimously killed the bill.
Evans said now that Garden City City Council turned down ACHD’s request for a 60-day extension on the conditional use permit of the shed at its last meeting, he expects the lawsuit to resume, and the matter needs to be “sorted out.”. As of June 1, the temporary stay on the suit is still in place.
“The important thing I think for us right now in the dispute we have is retaining that salt shed structure beyond the sunset of the conditional use permit,” Evans said. “It is not whether they should have a maintenance yard there.”
ACHD hoping for patience
In the meantime, ACHD is hoping for time to get up and moved out of Garden City to its new maintenance yard on an industrial piece of property in Southeast Boise. The property is adjacent to the property ACHD already owns and it purchased the site for the new yard at $5.62 million.
“We hope that our neighbors and City Leaders in Garden City will be patient with us as we plan and execute this exciting move,” said ACHD Commission President Kent Goldthorpe. “The move can’t happen overnight and will require a great deal of strategic and logistical planning. As with everything we do, we want to do it right. In the end, however, relocating the maintenance complex will benefit all parties.”