You Asked: What is going on with ACHD and a North End construction project?

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A house in the North End is in trouble again for missing permits it needed before embarking on a major renovation on site. 

Thomas and Andrea Colgan, owners of a property at 717 N 19th Street, got put on notice by Ada County Highway District for portions of their project to reroute an uncovered section of the Boise Canal encroaching on the public right of way without a permit. This is the second time their project for a drastic renovation of their corner lot ran afoul of local laws governing construction since the project began last year. 

[Boise proposes to beef up penalties for violations of demolition law in historic areas]

ACHD spokesperson Rachel Bjornestad told BoiseDev the homeowners are working with the agency to resolve the issue and no fines have been imposed. She expects the canal to be back in compliance with their rules by April 10. 

“We have since met with the responsible parties and they have agreed to address the issues,” Bjornestad wrote in an email. “This will include moving the canal out of the public right-of-way and addressing some other design details to maintain the integrity of the ACHD infrastructure that was impacted.”

The Colgans’ could not be reached for comment for this story. While Boise Canal Company did not provide extensive details, told BoiseDev the problem with the project’s encroachment on ACHD’s property was ‘very minimal’ and the error was not intentional. 

How did we get here?

Neighbors weren’t excited about the Colgans’ project from the beginning due to the scale of the changes in the historic district. 

In order to move close to their grandchildren, the Colgans purchased the lot and opted to demolish an existing 1940s single-family home on the site, reroute the Boise Canal from crossing diagonally across the lot to a right angle and add an addition to the larger home on the property. Nearby residents and the North End Neighborhood Association heavily opposed their plans during Historic Preservation Commission and City Council hearings last year, saying it was another example of newcomers coming to the North End and changing classic elements that made it desirable. 

A rough map of where the relocated canal will be located at Tom and Andrea Colgan’s property. Courtesy of the City of Boise

The project further ignited frustrations from historic preservation advocates and the neighbors when the Colgans’ tree service took down nearly a dozen trees without getting the proper permit from the city. After a series of tense hearings, Boise City Council voted last summer to grant the permit for the project to go ahead and a retroactive approval for the tree removal. 

City Council was frustrated with how the project transpired but ultimately decided the only way to put in requirements for the Colgans to plant more trees to replace those they took down was to approve their permits. 

What are ACHD’s concerns?

ACHD officials had a number of complaints about the Colgans’ project, but the biggest one the lack of a temporary highway use permit for the project. This is a permit required to do any construction in ACHD’s right-of-way. 

A notice posted at the construction site from the agency said construction of the rerouted canal likely led to damage to the sidewalk and soil supporting the sidewalks during construction, which could lead to “ongoing settlement issues.” ACHD says this is especially concerning if water is able to seep through the walls of the canal to the disturbed soil. 

Without a permit, ACHD did not get to review the plans for relocating the canal or inspect it during construction. 

“Essentially all of the issues mentioned in this Notice would have been avoided if you or your contractors had notified ACHD of the project and requested the required authorizations and permits from ACHD,” the notice said. 

ACHD’s notice made a reference to the canal’s final location differing from the plans it submitted to the Boise Canal Company for approval, but it did not specify how different the plans were from the final result. When asked how different the design was from the final result, Bjornestad told BoiseDev it was “unknown at this time.”

Boise Canal Company: Natural stone to blame

Things aren’t so bad, according to Boise Canal Company. 

Mike Harrison, water manager for the canal company, said the Colgans’ contractors followed their design, but because the stones they opted to use are natural and not uniformly shaped, it meant the final result was slightly different than the designs created by a computer-assisted design program. This resulted in the rerouted canal moving slightly into ACHD’s right-of-way. 

“It’s very minimal as far as the encroachment is concerned, but it’s still an encroachment,” Harrison said. “The canal was placed and I believe the plans went to ACHD and if the rock was a little smaller it would have probably been perfectly done, but the fact that the rock was natural it just encroached so ACHD has the problem with the stones.”

ACHD also raised concerns in its notice about the sharp right angles in the rerouted canal impacting the structural integrity of bridges on Ada and 19th streets, as well as nearby sidewalks. Commenters on social media also raised questions about how water will flow through the canal safely during the peak of irrigation season if it has to move around a sharp corner. 

In response to these concerns, Harrison said experts did “quite a bit of engineering” to calculate the proper flow levels for the new turns in the canal. He said the new design will carry more water than the previous design and will help drain the area during thunderstorms instead of only carrying irrigation water. 

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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