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‘I see my error’: Garden City approves 18-story tower after initial denial

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Garden City could get an 18-story condominium tower after all. 

After a roller coaster of approvals and denials, Garden City Council voted 2-1 last month to give Boise developer Michael Talbott the green light to build the final piece of his plans to redevelop the end of 41st Street along the Boise River. The building, which will be the tallest in Garden City and one of the tallest in Idaho, will be built alongside Talbott’s larger vision of the area including restaurants, a public plaza and two buildings with 275 apartments.

[Garden City again approves new Dutch Bros after concerns over parking, car stacking]

Flip flop

This is a departure from Talbott’s initial proposal in 2019. Under that iteration, the tower was set to be an 8-story hotel instead of an 18-story tower with condominiums for permanent residents. Garden City gave the thumbs up for that vision, but then Talbott asked the city’s Design Review Committee to make a change to the residential development instead over the summer.

It sailed through Design Review, but was appealed to Garden City City Council by neighbor Wendy Carver-Herbert for a final decision in October. At the time, City Council turned the tower down due to concerns with how it would fit in with the surrounding area and concerns the project did not meet the parking standards.

Talbott and his attorneys filed for reconsideration after their project was turned down, arguing Garden City’s decision did not comply with its own code and was an illegal denial. City Attorney Charles Wadams agreed the developer had standing to ask for a new vote and there was a possibility the matter could get decided by a court. Now, two City Council members agreed and opted to reverse their original votes.

City Council members James Page and Teresa Jorgensen both said after reviewing the new information provided by Talbott’s attorneys they realized their votes were in error and they would now support the project. They were especially encouraged to support the project after the developer dropped the unit count down to 108-condominiums, increased some of the ground floor commercial space and added in a bar and restaurant for the top of the tower.

“How I voted on the last time, most of it was because of what was I thought a parking deficiency and now that I see my error, I am not sure I can find a concern with health and safety (to the community) either,” Page said, about his vote on the project. “…I support the expansion of this project as proposed to include additional ground floor retail space and bar and restaurant for the rooftop. I think this will give it a sense of place and excitement to the area.”

Parking misunderstandings

In a legal memo provided to the city, Talbott’s attorney JoAnn Butler said Garden City Council voted down the project in October due to a misconception surrounding the project’s parking plan. She said city council members were under the impression the tower would be relying on a shared parking agreement with the nearby apartments to meet city parking requirements, but that is not the case. The confusion came from a shared parking agreement for 14 temporary spaces while construction is underway.

“We need to make this decision on facts, not fiction,” Talbott told Garden City City Council. “(My company) is pouring tens of millions of dollars of investment capital into Garden City and we care very much about Garden City’s success and progress. This project offers solutions, capital for growth and we are not interested in setting a precedent. We are interested in setting an opportunity.”

‘I don’t like the optics of it’

The parking argument and changes to the project didn’t sway City Council President Jeff Souza, though.

He doubled down on his comments from October concerned with how the project was approved with a hotel component and then was changed late in the game to a nearly double in height condominium tower. Souza praised the work fo the Design Committee and other city volunteers, but he could not vote in support due to it

“I think these are substantial changes and I am not faulting if this is the project the developer wants to build and I am appreciative of the money they are spending in our city, but this is not the project that went through the original process,” Souza said. “…The fact of the matter is none of (the Design Review Committee members who approved the project) have ever had their name on a ballot. I’ve done that four times. I don’t like what’s happened here. I don’t like the optics of it.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at margaret@boisedev.com or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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