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‘Half baked cake’: Boise council turns down proposal to use office zoning to build 40 homes

It wasn’t a simple decision for Boise City Council to turn down dozens of townhomes on the Boise Bench.

On Tuesday, all six council members wrestled with a proposal to rezone two acres in a single-family neighborhood on Palouse Street to make way for 40 townhomes. All of the council members supported more housing density in the area, but they balked at the developer’s proposal to use the limited office zone to squeeze the most density out of the parcel as possible instead of using a more traditional residential zone.

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In the end, the council voted 4-2, with Council President Elaine Clegg and City Council Member Patrick Bageant in the minority, to turn down Tradewinds of Idaho and send them back to the drawing board. 

Council: Use an allowed zone next time

Palouse Townhomes
Rendering of the proposed Palouse Townhomes in Boise. Via NeuDesign Architecture

The project would have combined four parcels with three single family homes a few blocks from Vista Avenue and built 40 identical, three story townhomes instead.

In order to fit this much density onto the parcel, Tradewinds hoped to use an office zone instead of the residential options available under the current zoning code. It could have built 30 units on the property with R2 or 35 with the R1-M zone. Due to the unusual zoning request, the Planning & Zoning Commission recommended it for denial.

The majority of council members finally opted to turn it down completely due to the zone. City Council Member Holli Woodings led the charge by making the motion to deny it.

“One of the things I think would be more appropriate would be to use an allowed zone,” she said. “I don’t think in this neighborhood forcing in as much density as possible adds anything.”

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Council Member Jimmy Hallyburton also struck out against the project, citing the inappropriateness of approving an office zone in the middle of a single family neighborhood.

“I know the (housing) inventory is needed, but my personal beliefs are one thing and interpreting code is another thing,” he said. “If I can look at the definition of (the limited office zone) and see that it is supposed to be office space, it’s very, very, very unpredictable to see something go from R1 to LO.”

Design changes wanted

Clegg and Bageant had their issues with the project too, but they hoped the vote could be deferred and the developer could make changes.

“We have a project here that is right on the edge,” Bageant said. “It’s right on the edge of permitted density and right on the edge of the zone that’s being asked for. It almost feels like a not quite baked cake.”

To help get the project over the finish line, Clegg suggested several redesigns of the project, like mixing up the design so it was made up of a mix of unit types and rearranged the parcels on the lot. She wasn’t bothered by the density in the location, but she felt the design of the project overwhelmed the neighborhood with no promises of lower cost units.

“Even though this may be a very nice product, it’s 40 units of the same product,” she said. “It’s 40 units that likely in this market are barely going to be able to be high-workforce if not be more expensive than that.”

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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