The City of Boise is gearing up for a major development application in the next few months.
Boise City Council heard a briefing Tuesday afternoon about the upcoming application for Murio Farms, a sprawling, mixed-use community proposed for a 380-acre parcel in Southwest Boise. The property, which was a dairy operated by the Murgoitio family for generations, is located near the New York Canal between Maple Grove and Cole Roads.
Though the project has a similar-sounding name and is owned by the Murgoitio family, it is otherwise not connected to the Murgoitio park site.
If the application is successful, it could include 3,560 housing units, 246,000 square feet of commercial space, an elementary school, and a network of paths and open space by 2040. The density of the lots will vary from block to block, ranging from traditional single-family homes on large lots to mixed-use blocks with apartments on top of commercial spaces.
‘More than one round’ of hearings expected
This project wouldn’t be just like any zoning application, though.
Developers The Land Group, Hubble Homes, and other entities connected to the Murgoitio family working on the project are hoping to use a Specific Plan for the site. This unique style of zoning allows a developer to create a planned community with customizable zoning requirements that is approved all at once, although it is built in phases. It requires the developer to submit a high level of detail upfront, including a transportation plan, landscape concepts, dimensional standards, prototypes for specific blocks, and a detailed map of pathways and roads.
This means that aside from the odd subdivision plat, most of the project’s phases would only come before City Council and Planning & Zoning once. The rest of the phases as they are built out go to Design Review for approval.
There are three other Specific Plans in the City of Boise: Harris Ranch, Barber Valley and Syringa Valley, which is next door to Murio Farms. Syringa is in the very early stages of construction under the brand name Locale.
Current Planning and Subdivision Manager Celine Acord told Boise City Council it took multiple rounds of hearings at P&Z and City Council to approve Syringa Valley when it went through the approval process. All told, it took nearly two years. She expects a similarly lengthy timeline for Murio Farms.
“This might take more than one round of public hearings,” she told the council. “This isn’t a typical application, so it’s to be expected this won’t be a typical process.”
Cars, cars and more cars
There are a number of questions city staff are studying before the application comes up for a hearing at P&Z in December and a City Council hearing in early 2022.
A traffic study is still under review with the Ada County Highway District. Early projections from the study estimate that along with the growth from nearby Meridian, Kuna, and other subdivisions in the area, the project will generate 41,680 trips per day by 2040. As of now, the plan calls for widening several roads to the area, including Orchard Street, Lake Hazel Rd., Gowen Rd., Cole Rd., and Maple Grove Rd. The tentative vision calls for some of these roads to be as wide as seven lanes to accommodate the growth in traffic, with some intersections built with two turn lanes, Acord said.
City Council President Elaine Clegg said that raised some questions for her. She, and other city council members, have been skeptical of transportation policies that rely heavily on costly road widening instead of alternative transportation solutions like public transportation or cycling to ease congestion.
“I don’t think this council in the time I’ve been on it has supported much road widening at all, let alone this kind and amount of it,” she said. “I understand the projections, but I also understand that 30 years ago Fairview and Cole was supposed to be the busiest corner in the world and it’s about half of what was projected. This (project) requires a lot of pretty deep discussion.”
What about fire access? And parks?
Fire projection is another question the city will have to address.
As of now, there isn’t a Boise Fire Department station within range of the project. The closest one is a station city council approved earlier this year to go at the corner of Lake Hazel and Orchard as part of a new industrial park. But, this station is likely another 10 years away from completion. Whitney Fire District has two stations nearby, one already built to the north on Cole Road and one planned west of Murio Farms on Lake Hazel.
Acord said the city’s planning department is working on a phasing plan that would require a fire station to be in place before larger, denser sections of the project could be completed to address this issue.
“The important thing to point out is that just because the fire station isn’t there doesn’t mean we can’t allow for some building,” she said. “Those are the kinds of conversations we’re having right now as far as phasing and making sure we come up with conditions and figuring out what we can allow to be built right now and focusing on a certain number to phase it properly as we are waiting for stations to come online and services are available.”
City Council Member Holli Woodings also asked if there were any plans for a city park in Murio Farms or if the area’s open space would all be privately owned and maintained. She has said multiple times in recent months about how the city should look to count privately managed open space when it studies how far residents are from parks and work to ensure HOA-owned open spaces are accessible to everyone.
Acord said there are no plans for a city park in Murio Farms, but a park is planned for the neighboring Syringa Valley project. She noted that Boise’s Parks and Recreation Department would prefer any open space in the development be privately owned to keep maintenance and operations costs down, but they want the walking trails and other open areas to be open to the public.