The City of Boise is taking another step back from developing the Murgoitio park site anytime soon.
On Tuesday, Mayor Lauren McLean and her Chief of Staff Courtney Washburn gave an update on the state of the possibility to build housing on the roughly 160-acre Murgoitio site in Southwest Boise that was envisioned as a park in the late 1990s. After weeks of uproar against the possibility by nearby neighbors and other residents, McLean said the city has no plans to annex the site into city limits anytime soon.
“We have other priorities we are in the midst of,” McLean said. “We did the due diligence upfront that we said we would do and that didn’t pan out, we pulled it from annexation and we have no intention of annexing Murgoitio at this time.”
A weeks-long fight
The controversy started with a proposal for a land swap from the Harris Family to build housing below the median price on the Murgoitio site along with a 7-acre park in exchange for open space in the foothills surfaced in June. After BoiseDev reported that the land the Harris Family offered to swap would remain open anyway and residents continued to criticize the city, McLean ended talks about the swap at the end of July.
A day later, McLean said the city would continue evaluating the site and options for development there. The city publicly noticed a meeting to annex the Murgoito parcel, which lies just outside of city limits south of Victory Road, at Planning & Zoning on August 9. But, after the public notice went out McLean back-peddled again and said the P&Z commission would only consider the annexation of nearby parcels owned by the Boise Airport and the Boise School District, not the Murgoitio park site.
This resulted in confusion from residents and criticism from Planning & Zoning Commissioners when residents came to the August 9th meeting to express their concern about the park site. Some came to the meeting thinking the Murgoitio site was still up for annexation because it was still on the agenda. Officials say this was the case because they wanted the agenda to match what was publicly advertised, not an intent to mislead the public.
McLean said the timing of rolling back the annexation request and how the P&Z meeting happened was not smooth.
“That meeting was not our best day and I know we can do better,” McLean said. “I apologize for that. Timing wise, I wish it could have been set up in a way that was more clear for the commission and the commission did not have to have the experience they had that evening.”
The P&Z commission criticized the city’s process leading up to the hearing.
Washburn told the council that the city is not moving ahead with removing the restrictive covenants placed on the Murgoitio parcel by the city council in the late 1990s requiring it to be a park and the city will be taking “no other actions.”
The Boise Airport hired an outside law firm to advise them on the FAA regulations on the parcel and how the airport can be paid back for the value of the land in accordance with the covenants if the city ever were to remove them. A report on those findings will be available to the council in the next month, Washburn said.
City Council President Elaine Clegg asked how the city will handle the requests from residents in the area that Murgoitio become a regional park. City staff estimated greening up the property, which includes grass, trees, parking, utilities and other basics will cost between $30 and $35 million for the entire 160-acre site.
“I know we are not prepared to have an answer today, but there is still a large expectation in the community that there will be a very large park in that part of the community,” Clegg said. “As I understand the finances and the property tax we are collecting in this region and the impact fees we are collecting in this region, there simply isn’t enough to finance the large scale park of what was being talked about on this parcel.”
Washburn said the need for housing, annexation and plans for a park will all be part of a larger neighborhood conversation at some point. But until then, the city doesn’t the resources to address Murgoitio park “anytime soon.”