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Public lands advocate Fite runs for Boise council seat

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A regular critic of city leadership is shooting for a spot on the Boise City Council dais herself. 

Kate Fite, 66, is running against incumbent City Council Member Holli Woodings, Public Works Commissioner Crispin Gravatt, and Steve Madden in November to represent downtown Boise, the East End, and a section of the Boise Bench. If elected, she would oppose the city’s moves to rewrite the zoning code to allow for more density, question the city’s plans for wastewater improvements, and fight any proposals to build affordable housing on city-owned land once planned for parks.

“I couldn’t sit back and not try to do something to change the course of some of the decisions being made by the city council and hopefully help protect a lot of things in Boise that people really cherish,” Fite said.

Boise City Council Seat 5
The City of Boise’s map for the establishment of council districts for the city. Courtesy City of Boise

Fite earned her undergraduate degree from Penn State in Biology before heading out west to earn a Biology graduate degree in Utah. She spent time exploring the region before landing at Idaho Fish and Game working on habitat improvement. Later she worked at a few other public lands advocacy groups before landing at her current job with WildLands Defense.

In the past three years, she has spoken at dozens of public meetings in opposition to a range of issues, including an F-35 mission in Boise, the Housing Bonus Ordinance, a trucking terminal next door to Blue Valley mobile home park and several large housing developments. She said former Mayor Dave Bieter’s decision to accept a donation to build a bike park and dog park in Military Reserve in 2018 spurred her to take action on city issues.

Fite questions move towards density in Boise

Fite said one of the major issues she is concerned about is the city’s move to rewrite the decades-old zoning code, which she said will lead to the destruction of neighborhood character and protections for existing homeowners. She doesn’t buy the city’s arguments that more housing density will help alleviate the affordable housing crisis because she said it will only create instability in existing neighborhoods.

“I really don’t believe the zoning code change is coming up from people in the neighborhoods so we can make it so we can have a 5 story, 40 unit apartment condominium building here on 5th street,” Fite said. “I don’t think the neighborhood is saying that.”

One of the issues Fite testified about in recent months was a planning application for a new upscale student housing development at the corner of Protest Road and Boise Avenue set to replace an aging, affordably priced apartment complex. She said the city should not have approved the project and done something to preserve the existing community, but she did not have a specific idea of how they should have proceeded.

Fite said the city should either force developers to stick to the existing zoning on a parcel or negotiate hard with developers to get more affordable housing from the project.

“The city has leverage,” Fite said. “I think they aren’t using their leverage in a way that brings about really affordable housing with many of these projects.”

No on wastewater bond

The city’s plans for a $570 million bond election in November aren’t getting the thumbs up from Fite either.

She said clean water and keeping the Boise River healthy are major priorities of hers, but she isn’t sure the city’s plans for recycled water, the potential for aquifer recharge and upgrades to existing facilities should be voted now. Fite said the city’s plans aren’t sketched out enough yet for her to feel comfortable voting for the plan and she has concerns that potentially recharging the aquifer with highly treated wastewater could harm the environment.

“Is this really where we’re going?”, she said. “I don’t think the public has enough information. I know I don’t have enough information to vote on a sewer bond of that magnitude in November without having a lot more information on hand.”

Fite also took issue with a draft consultant’s report BoiseDev reported on last month analyzing which of the city’s land holdings would be appropriate for affordable housing development. The report identified several potential sites, but the City of Boise has not announced it would act on any of the sites for development at this time.Instead, the city said it will be focusing on locations in the downtown core.

“What are these people doing and what are they thinking that they would be going around Boise looking to build on lands that people bequeathed to the city in their wills or they bought for rock bottom prices where the landowners said ‘we want the city to have this because we want there to be a public use of it for public parkland?” Fite said.

BoiseDev will profile each candidate for Boise City Council, Garden City City Council and Meridian City Council as they formally file to run for office.

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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