A Boise neighborhood association is taking its years-long fight against a dense subdivision to a higher court.
This week, the Northwest Neighborhood Association filed its opening brief with the Idaho Supreme Court in its case to stop Trilogy Development and CBH Homes from building a 226 unit development near Hill Road Parkway. This is an appeal from the Fourth District court, where a judge sided against the neighborhood association last summer.
ISC spokesperson Nate Poppino said the case is moving ahead. The developers and the City of Boise, who are also parties in the suit, have until April 27 to submit their briefs to the court. The case will either be assigned to the Idaho Court of Appeals or the Idaho Supreme Court, and oral arguments will be scheduled.
NWNA has bitterly opposed this development since it was first proposed in 2017. Neighbors testified heavily in opposition through hours of Planning & Zoning and City Council hearings, and when it was approved, they filed for judicial review in District Court. They say the development, if approved, would negatively impact the private property rights of the neighbors by harming wildlife and endangering their health by straining the fire response system in the area.
Neighbors contend the City of Boise’s approval of the project was illegal.
Eagle Fire and Boise’s relationship a major argument point
In the brief, NWNA attorney Brian Ertz made several arguments that the City of Boise violated its own procedures while evaluating the project and the Planning & Zoning Commission’s initial denial of the project stand and development on-site cease. At the time, P&Z denied an older version of the project before Boise City Council requested a redesign and decreased the density by purchasing one of the parcels to keep as permanent open space before voting in approval.
One of Ertz’s biggest arguments centers around fire response. Because there is no fire station in Northwest Boise, the Eagle Fire District and the City of Boise share responsibility for responding to the area based on a long-standing practice of mutual aid, which was formalized with an agreement during the Prominence hearings. Because Eagle Fire is so heavily involved in responding to the area, Ertz said they should have been able to weigh in on the application.
“Indeed, at no time was Eagle Fire consulted, despite Boise Fire’s reliance on Eagle Fire to help protect Boise citizens,” he wrote in the brief. “Thus, there is no record as to whether the proposed Project development would, or would not, place an undue burden on Eagle Fire, as its jurisdiction and much of Ada County see rapid development and increasing traffic congestion and gridlock.”
The City of Boise announced plans to construct a fire station in Northwest Boise last year, but it is still in the design phase. At the time of the Prominence hearing, there were no concrete plans for a station in the area, which was a significant concern to residents who said their services were far below what Boise’s Comprehensive Plan envisioned, with a station located 1.5 miles from every development.
NWNA alleges Prominence violates substantial rights and procedure
The brief reiterated several arguments from the hours of hearings on Prominence and the arguments Ertz made for the neighborhood in District Court.
It alleges Prominence’s size and density would violate the substantial rights of the neighbors to use and enjoy their private property due to impacts to the degradation of a section of the area’s rural character and landscapes that inspired the artist James Castle, who lived and worked nearby in Collister.
The brief also argued the added density would increase fire danger to the residents and lessen their access to fire response due to the lack of a fire station in the area. This section of the brief did not reference Boise’s plans for a new station in the area, but appeared to raise some skepticism about the effort.
“As a neighborhood association with a mission to protect its residents and lands, NWNA has been afforded little assurance that the City is working diligently to extend equal and fair fire protection its members’ recently annexed properties,” the brief said.
Is Council taking new evidence grounds to deny?
Beyond the issue of whether or not Eagle Fire District should have gotten to weigh in on the project during the application phase, Ertz also contends City Council should have denied the project and asked for it to start over. He says Boise City Council holding a public hearing, closing it, delaying deliberation and voting on a redesigned project from the developer violated the city’s process.
Ertz says this is in violation of the City of Boise’s own appeal process, which requires Boise City Council to only examine the same evidence that was before P&Z and determine if they made an error in their judgment.
“The Council clearly used new evidence that did not exist in the record, and substituted its judgment for that of the PZC regarding compatibility of the Project with the existing Neighborhood character and land uses, while acting as a reviewing body for the appeal,” Ertz wrote. “While the Reasons for the Decision to overturn the PZC’s ruling and to approve the rezone stated that the PZC decision was in error because it lacked “substantial evidence,’ in fact, the evidence then given in the Reasons was clearly new and not available to the PZC.”