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‘A happy middle’: Boise Planning & Zoning Commission turns down portion of industrial park closest to homes, approves the rest

Boise’s Planning & Zoning Commission was not excited about a pitch from the Boise Airport to build an industrial park a few hundred feet from a subdivision on the city’s outskirts. 

On Monday, the South Cole Neighborhood Association and residents of Indian Lakes Subdivision made their case for planning commissioners to deny a proposal to rezone and develop 153 acres of airport land into an industrial park. The proposal, from Boise-based Adler Industrial, could include up to 31 buildings in a two-part industrial park. 

[Mix of hundreds of housing units approved on former school district site in Southwest Boise]

The project would span a wide area near the Airport. It would include a scattering of smaller sites near Victory Road and Maverick Lane, but it would cover a larger area east of the Indian Lakes Subdivision’s Umatilla Drive and south of Gowen Road. For months, residents of Indian Lakes and others have spoken out against the project. They are particularly concerned about the Airport’s proposal to rezone a 77-acre parcel of land directly behind their homes from A2, permanent open space, to a light industrial designation. 

This proposed rezone of the A2 area is the part of the Airport’s proposal the Planning & Zoning Commissioners had the most problems with. After hours of testimony, they voted 4-2 to only approve a rezone of the majority of the parcels located further from the homes currently designated A1 for open lands and parks. They opted to turn down the proposal to rezone the A2 area, which is located on top of a ridge away from the rest of the project and closest to Indian Lakes. 

Planning & Zoning Commission makes recommendations to Boise City Council on rezones. This whole project will go before the council for another round of hearings and a final vote in the coming weeks. 

Airport proposed changes, but it was still not enough 

This vote has been a long time coming. 

The Boise Airport’s pitch to rezone this land first came before the Planning & Zoning Commission in January. However, the lack of a conceptual site plan and more specifics about what could be built on the site lead commissioners to ask for a delay. The project was initially scheduled for another vote in February, but it was delayed a second time until March. 

But, even after two months of waiting, Airport officials still said there is no conceptual site plan for the industrial park and it was too early to say exactly how the project would look after it is approved and built out. BoiseDev obtained a copy of Adler Industrial’s response to the city’s request for developers to partner with to build the industrial park earlier this year. But officials say this is only a vague idea of what the site could look like and the project is still in the due diligence phase. 

The second area in Adler Industrial’s proposal to develop an industrial park at the Boise Airport. Indian Lakes is located just west of the map. Courtesy of Adler Industrial

At Monday’s meeting, the Boise Airport brought back some changes to the proposal in an attempt to assuage concerns. This included an expansion of the buffer between the industrial area and Indian Lakes from 60 feet to 100 feet. In addition, a development agreement would prevent a trucking terminal, refueling station or a composting site on the property closest to Indian Lakes. 

The DA would also require any cargo loading operations to be located on the interior of the site away from homes. The airport also committed to working with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to preserve the land along the ridgeline in the middle of the parcel for recreation and preservation. 

Even with the changes, the lack of an available detailed site plan before voting to rezone the area was still a non-starter for several commissioners. Commissioner Ashley Squyres and Commissioner Jennifer Mohr were both concerned about the lack of a detailed plan showing how the westernmost portion of the project would be accessed and the possibility they would approve a rezone without any say over what the land would be used for. 

“I’ve been doing land use planning for 22 years now and I’ve worked on some of the largest projects in this valley,” Squyres said. “I have never seen a project this large come forth with a rezone application of this magnitude without a concept plan, without more details, without just some preliminary information for a commission to consider.”

‘A middle ground’

Squyres and Mohr made a motion to deny the rezone altogether due to the lack of a site plan, but other commissioners wanted to find a path forward for at least some of it. 

Commissioner Milt Gillespie proposed an alternative plan to only approve the A1 portion of the project and turn down the land currently zoned permanent open space for “a middle ground” solution. He said this gives Boise City Council a range of options to consider, while still allowing the airport to begin to move ahead with the rest of the project people aren’t nearly as concerned about. 

“It’s not that this recommendation is set in deep granite, but I think the cleanest thing to do is move forward with just the A1 (land),” he said. “That will help the airport judge the commercial viability of the project but it will also help them figure out what to say to council about the remaining chunk.”

The majority of the commission agreed with Gillespie and voted for his motion, while Mohr and Squyres stuck to their guns and opted to vote no, still supporting the project being denied in its entirety. Commissioner John Mooney said this issue is a conflict between the city’s focus on protecting the environment and economic development, but there should be a way to find a compromise. He urged Boise City Council to consider using the city’s open space and clean water levy funds to purchase the A2, permanent open space, parcel from the Airport to keep it open in perpetuity. 

“I have to assume that city leadership was involved in this city staff coordination between the airport and any other departments, so for that reason, I think they’ve thought about this so I don’t think it’s something we should deny, but it’s something we should look more closely for a middle ground.”

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. 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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