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BCA pens letter to Meridian about concerns with how housing is handled & plans to contact other cities

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The Building Contractors Association of Southwestern Idaho is sending out letters to cities across the Treasure Valley with one major concern at the forefront of the note: affordable housing. 

“We recognize there’s still a shortage of housing in our valley, based on the number of people who moved over the last couple of years. And so as a result of that, we were just hopeful to work in a collaborative effort to find solutions to the affordable housing problem in our valley today,” Dave Yorgason, who serves on the BCA Builder/Developer Council, told BoiseDev during an interview. 

Through a public records request, BoiseDev obtained a letter BCA sent to the City of Meridian regarding concerns with the way the city is handling housing. Yorgason told BoiseDev that the association was working to contact other cities as well, but Meridian happened to be at the top of the list.

‘Frustration’

“Several of our members have expressed frustration caused from frequent project delays in the City of Meridian,” the letter addressed to Mayor Robert Simison, city council members, planning and zoning commission, and staff read. “Frustration comes from a variety of reasons, including what appears to be a planning and zoning commission that has become less effective. There are times when staff recommends approval of an application as the project follows city code, then the commission recommends denial of the development application.”

In response to BCA’s comments about Meridian Planning and Zoning, City Council President Brad Hoaglun told BoiseDev that the commission staff is fairly new. Hoaglun also said that losing longtime planning and zoning commissioner Lisa Holland in a traffic accident was a huge blow.

“The commission looked to her (Holland’s) for leadership,” he said. “When I review their minutes as we go into something they worked on… they often looked at her for guidance. Despite her young age, she was well respected and really was a leader. And that was a tragic loss, and I think that kind of set them back on their heels a bit. And then we had a couple of new members come on… So we have a fairly new Planning and Zoning Commission.”

Hoaglun said the community development department has been holding training sessions for the commission to get them up to speed. 

BCA also wrote that the agency has noticed an “ongoing trend” by Meridian City Council that it says is contributing to the housing shortage. Specifically, the letter says these “concerning actions” include denying projects because of traffic concerns and deferring project decisions with “the hope that the state legislature will provide additional funding for schools.”

“We understand and support the need to address traffic and school crowding concerns in a responsible way, but denying or deferring applications is not only deeply concerning, but it does not solve the problems,’ the letter said. “Should these actions continue, traffic and school problems are not solved and other problems continue to grow, including housing unaffordability. Recently, the Treasure Valley was listed in numerous articles, both national and local, as one of the most unaffordable places to live in the country. We know this unaffordability problem has caused hiring pains at the City of Meridian as you and other cities strive to fill open positions.”

‘Efficient… and effective’

Hoaglun says the building industry is working hard to keep up with the fast-paced growth that’s happening in Meridian. And while he wants to keep the city running “efficiently and effectively,” staff turnover and a struggle to fill open positions within the city have complicated matters.

“And we did get two of the positions filled. So that certainly helped. They are getting up to speed. We’re very, very close, to going back to the next day service,” he said. “The mayor meets regularly with the BCA and he had a special meeting with them to talk through this with our building staff folks and met to discuss the letter and the concerns they had and what we’re doing in response. We certainly understand their concern for the delays and we definitely wanted to rectify it and we are very close to having that completely resolved. “

As for the traffic comment, Hoaglun said that sometimes the plan that Ada County Highway District has in place is one that infrastructure and development don’t support at the time. Other times, to help with this, developers may work with ACHD to get the project rolling anyway.

“There are some developers who will go in and say okay, ACHD, we’ll work with you on this. We’ll put in the turn lanes, we will do these certain things at our cost…But developers will go in and say we understand what’s going on here. So let us help out. And so that’s a big difference,” he said.

Yorgason emphasized that they are not “angry” with one particular city. 

“We’re not angry at any one city,” he said. “It’s a challenge we’re experiencing across the entire valley, affordable housing.”

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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