It’s a rare sight to see an appeal over a multi-family development end on a high note.
On Tuesday, Boise City Council unanimously voted to turn down an appeal from some residents and business owners who raised objections to a 270-unit housing project in Southeast Boise. But, even though the room had several attendees eagerly awaiting the results, it didn’t end with boos or angry neighbors.
Both sides walked away with promises to collaborate on how to make the development work and keep the connectivity to the nearby shopping center intact.
“I feel like a winner,” David Becker, one of the appellants, said in his rebuttal at the end of the meeting. “You haven’t made your decision yet, but you’ve asked the same questions we’re asking and I think there’s benefit to that and there’s growth to that and I think we can work together with the developer to bring forward a proper solution.”
What’s the project?
The project, proposed by Boise-based Hawkins Companies and JRS Properties, includes a mix of multi-story apartment buildings and townhomes with amenities like a hot tub, dog park, club house and three playgrounds on 11 acres. It’s located near the intersection of Gowen Road and Federal Way, next to a major shopping center with an Albertsons, McDonald’s, liquor store and several other stores and restaurants.
The land was zoned for more commercial development instead of residential, but that never materialized and it sat empty for twenty years.
The big hiccup with the project is vehicle access in and out of the shopping center. Right now, lots of traffic uses an access road that cuts through the property owned by JRS Properties to get in and out of the shopping center to turn back on to Gowen Road. The appellants raised some concerns about the density of the project, but mostly were concerned the project would eliminate this as an entrance to the shopping center and cause a traffic jam.
Developer agrees to maintain access
The access road is a private road owned and maintained by JRS, but it has an easement on it requiring that the access stay open. During his project presentation, Hawkins representative Brandon Whallon assured the city and residents the plan would be to keep the access through the parcel to the shopping center open.
He also agreed to work with the appellants’ suggestions to tweak the design in the Design Review process to ensure it kept traffic moving and allowed the development to move ahead. Whallon said the development is a strong choice for the area to support the existing businesses and will help keep the neighborhood strong without taking away any necessary connectivity.
“What really inspires me is this is an opportunity to make an infill property productive, something that has sat vacant for 20 years waiting for an opportunity to contribute to the neighborhood,” he said.
‘This kind of housing is much needed’
City Council members praised the project for its density and proximity to a large shopping center, which will likely cut down on daily vehicle trips due to the proximity to multiple stores.
City Council President Elaine Clegg proposed imposing several requirements on the development, including
- The access road must remain open for the duration of construction
- Traffic calming on the access road must not include speed bumps
- Parking in the complex is either diagonal or parallel parking
- Hawkins Companies must consider the possibility of additional bike lanes
“Most of you know we have a housing shortage in Boise,” Clegg said. “This kind of housing is much needed. As the applicant stated, this is a location that hasn’t been developed for many years. These residents might make the commercial already there more viable.”
City Council Member Jimmy Hallyburton acknowledged the difficulties with the access road and the importance of people being able to easily access the shopping center, but he said leaving the parcel empty isn’t the answer.
“If this was a commercial complex, you’d still have the same problem,” Hallyburton said. “No matter what gets put here there will always be that problem, unless it’s nothing. And nothing won’t solve affordable housing or bring business to the stores already there.”