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After successful court challenge, Garden City moves to eliminate Surel Mitchel overlay district

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Repeal versus repair was the subject of debate at Monday evening’s Garden City City Council meeting.

The council considered whether the Surel Mitchell Live Work Create District overlay zone requirements should be cleaned up or if the overlay should be repealed altogether.

The Surel Mitchell Live Work Create District is a mixed-use area in Garden City between the Connector and 38th Street south of the Boise River. It includes breweries, wineries, restaurants, art galleries, and more. The district was created to bring more vibrancy to the area.

An overlay zone is a zoning district that is applied to an already existing zone. It creates additional or stricter standards for the property. However, city attorney Charlie Wadams says the requirements can be circumvented because of how they are written.

“In most jurisdictions, if there’s an overlay district, the applicant is required to follow the requirements of the overlay district,” Wadams said. “In Garden City, an applicant can pick or choose. I mean, if somebody wants to submit an application, and there’s a base zone and then there’s an overlay on top of it, as it’s written and currently interpreted, the applicant could say ‘I want the base zoning’, or the applicant could say, ‘I want the overlay zoning.’”

In addition to applicants being able to skirt certain requirements, Wadams added that the way the district parking standards are written also presents a problem.

“The parking standards were specifically called out by Judge (Jonathan) Medema, saying that they’re subjective. And so either way, we have a parking regulation issue,” he said. 

According to city officials, nothing is currently being built in the district and there have hardly been any development proposals.

“I’m not sure what Surel (the well-known artist who the district was named after) would say if she was with us today. I think there would be some level of disappointment that this has become complicated and acrimonious.” Council President James Page said. 

Testimony

Jason and Kristen Jones challenged the Live Work Create District zone standards in court and won after Garden City City Council denied their project Wee Boise. The proposed project was a 6,000-square-foot, multi-story development with spaces for craft brewers, artists, and food vendors. 

Jason Jones was at the council meeting and testified in favor of keeping the overlay district and fixing the wording.

“Go ahead and just fix the Live Work code that way,” Jones said. “And then let’s have the discussions about how we think we can make the Live Work code useful because I think my issue is that if it gets repealed, I don’t see a strong favorable reaction to actually going back and creating it within the other code.”

All of the council members agreed the overlay should be repealed.

Council also talked about how going back and fixing the base code in the area would be best.

“I haven’t been convinced of a true tangible value of this overlay,” Jorgensen said. “And so my inclination would be to vote for ‘option A’ to repeal this and find a way in our base code, and everybody is on board and accelerating the need to fix our parking regulations. That’s hitting the top priority. I believe if we go back to base code, the entities and particularly the city council, we have the tools and ability to approve exceptions and allow unique and interesting and creative developments.”

It was noted early on during the discussion that the repeal does not eliminate the Live Work Create branding.

This memorandum is subject to a three-reading process. 

Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Meridian and McCall. Contact her at [email protected].

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