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Stoplight a roadblock for proposed Boise apartment project. City looks for way to align government, private landowners

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Two small slivers of land stand in the way of a large Boise apartment complex getting built.

The project is entangled in a web of agencies and private land owners – City of Boise, Ada County Highway District, Idaho Transportation Department — and a church and small retail center in Garden City.

BoiseDev first reported on the Matlock Village Apartments this summer. The project at State St. near Duncan Ln. (which is now called Westlock Village) would add 224 apartments in a series of three and four-story buildings, along with 302 parking spaces and amenities like a pool, gym, and dog park.

To gain approval, developers had to agree to extend Ulmer Ln. through the property to connect with the street on the other side of State in Garden City. But Duncan Ln. – and the Westlock project – are on a stretch of State St. with no pedestrian crossings or stop lights. The nearest lights are at Bogart Ln. to the east and Horseshoe Bend Rd. to the west – both about a half mile away in either direction.

Boise’s Planning & Zoning Commission required that the project build a stop light at State and Ulmer. The move seemed to make neighbors happy, and the developer said they weren’t against it.

A red for the stoplight

The proposed intersection of State St. and Ulmer Ln. Via City of Boise

But then a snag popped up.

To add a stoplight, two slivers of right-of-way would need to be acquired – one on the property of Foothills Church, and the other from 9601 West State Street retail and office complex. Both properties are not in Boise like Westlock Village – but in Garden City.

But Stephanie Hopkins, who represents developer Kinterra, told Boise City Council, that negotiations with the two groups haven’t been straightforward.

“That involves a lot of coordination with those property owners with over ten potential parties whose full cooperation is needed,” Hopkins said. “We would have no legal remedy to acquire that right of way if they did not want to cooperate.”

So the developers appealed the Planning & Zoning Commission’s ruling and asked to have the stoplight requirement removed. Before the appeal was decided on, the development could move forward without the stoplight – but couldn’t get an occupancy certificate until it was done.

They can build it, but without a stoplight, no one will come.

“Keeping the existing condition would put Kintera in an unfavorable negotiation position with those other parties,” Hopkins said. “If Kintera can’t get the right-of-way, then Ulmer Ln. wouldn’t be constructed.”

Hopkins said that the Ada County Highway District has said they aren’t willing to force the taking of the small pieces of land through its eminent domain power – instead leaving it to Kintera to buy the land privately. Ultimately, the right-of-way would be dedicated to ACHD for the light.

Detour

As the Boise City Council asked questions and attempted to find a way forward, council president Elaine Clegg had an idea. The council would take the requirement for the stoplight off, but instead, put in a stipulation that the developer enter into a cooperative agreement for the stoplight.

And, the city would take an action too.

“My intent in making this motion is we allow the development to go forward, and we impose on ourselves that we go to ACHD as soon as possible and request that they add the stoplight at State and Ulmer to their five-year work plan as soon as practical and they prioritize in the next two.”

Since the developer is putting up most of the funding for the light, Clegg thinks the highway district would have little reason to deny the request. If adopted by ACHD, it would also potentially compel them to use the eminent domain process to purchase the land triangles.

“I appreciate that the council president is trying to find a way to make this work,” council member Luci Willits said. “I just can’t get over the fact that I think there needs to be a light here. I think it the absence of that (condition) we may not get it.’

She asked Clegg what would guarantee the light happens. Clegg responded with a mix of practicality and hopefulness.

“There’s never a guarantee,” she said to Willits. “We don’t control it. It has been my experience that when we ask it to be added to (ACHD’s) five-year work plan, they will. It is the one lever we control.”

The council ultimately approved the project and Clegg’s motion.

Correction: Added some clarifying language about the status of the stoplight prior to the appeal.

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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