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Boise City Council votes to approve industrial park next to Blue Valley mobile home park after hours of testimony

Years after a lengthy battle against a trucking terminal on the property nearby, Blue Valley Mobile Home Park will now have a sprawling campus of warehouses as a next-door neighbor.

After hours of testimony and back and forth, Boise City Council voted 4-2 to approve seven warehouse buildings with 1.19 million square feet of industrial space to a parcel located at 8675 S. Warehouse Court in Southeast Boise near Eisenman Road. This project, which is on a parcel of land owned by the Yanke family, would fill in the gap between the Winco Foods warehouse and Blue Valley, a largely working-class mobile home neighborhood surrounded by an increasingly developed industrial area.

It has a berm with large trees, plus a privacy fence on top, planned on the northern border of the project between Blue Valley and the largest building of the warehouse complex. The design requires no truck terminals be behind the building next to the residents and the developer said the largest building is oriented in a way to serve as a buffer between the development and the circulating truck traffic. The parking lot closest to the homes will be for employees in personal vehicles, not semis.

City Council Members Luci Willits and Lisa Sanchez were the dissenting votes against it.  

Intersection of zoning, class and housing

The emotional hearing was reminiscent of a months-long fight spanning 2018 and into 2019 against a proposed nearly 100-bay trucking terminal from R&L Carriers on another adjacent property, which would have put trucking bays only a few feet from the edge of the residential neighborhood. Eventually, after hours upon hours of contentious testimony, the City of Boise under former Mayor Dave Bieter inked a deal with R&L to do a land swap so they could build their facility down the road from Blue Valley.

The neighborhood is quite the quagmire for city officials. The mobile home park may be full of residents who fiercely love their community, neatly manicured gardens and waterfowl in the ponds, but it was also zoned industrial when the city annexed the property due to its proximity to the Boise airport. The noise from the planes legally prevents residential development in this area and only allows industrial uses, making Blue Valley what’s called a “non-conforming use” that only gets to remain because of its past history of existence. But, if someone were to try and build a mobile home park next door, it would not be allowed.

Zoning isn’t the whole story though, especially to the people who live in Blue Valley. In recent years, and at Tuesday’s hearing, they passionately argued that being hemmed in by industrial development in the area was an example of environmental discrimination where pollutants like diesel fumes and heavy truck traffic are often built in low-income neighborhoods where residents have fewer resources to fight off hurtful projects. Residents said the city talks a big game about wanting affordable housing, but it neglects to protect their neighborhood where people can own a home and take care of themselves without any government subsidies.

And with Idaho’s private property and zoning laws that make it nearly impossible for the city to deny a project that follows the city’s guidelines and the zoning for a parcel, it leaves city council with few options for voting down industrial projects near Blue Valley without incurring a potential lawsuit.

What happened during the vote?

There was quite a bit of back and forth before council members settled on what exactly the industrial complex would look like.

City Council Member Patrick Bageant kicked off the debate with a motion to approve the project with a minor rerouting of the northwest corner to keep trucks from disturbing residents, noting the difficulty of the residents’ position, but also the zoning of the area that allows this sort of project.

“I took to heart the comment that we’re pushing out the kinds of people we need to run the city and that’s true, but the law is the law and the property rights are the property rights. We can’t make decisions that conflict with that,” he said.

City Council President Elaine Clegg then asked Bageant if he’d be willing to change his motion to extend the berm to the entire northern end of the project and the addition of a sound wall or the developer producing noise studies saying noise wouldn’t impact residents. He declined, saying the berm extending all the way out past the mobile home park is “a bridge too far.”

But, he eventually to the possibility of a sound wall as long as the extended berm wasn’t part of the approval.

Willits also acknowledged the difficulty of the issue and opted to vote against the approval because of the concept of the sound wall.

“I can tell we’re all trying to find a solution here,” she said. “But, I don’t like the idea of a sound wall. That feels very industrial to me and loses the character of the neighborhood.”

Boise City Council
The Boise City Council during an evening session. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

City Council Member Holli Woodings commended the developer for the thoughtful design of the parcel and how it took into account the residents, even if the zoning was industrial and a large-sized industrial project was allowed in the area.

“I honestly think it’s zoned industrial,” she said. “It will be industrial and I think design review did a pretty darn good job and the developers did a darn good job of building in this buffer, a 50 foot green space with a lot of trees. Is it going to be the sagebrush field that it’s been forever? No, it’s not. But I think it’s hopefully a middle ground that will allow the use of the land and also provide that physical buffer what will practically look like commercial, and not industrial from (the Blue Valley) side of the property”

City Council Member Jimmy Hallyburton pushed back on arguments the city was only allowing this to move forward because Blue Valley wasn’t an affluent neighborhood. Instead, he said it was a product of the zoning of the area and the unique situation the neighborhood was in due ot its proximity to the airport. However, he said one of his goals in the ongoing zoning rewrite process was to put in new buffers in the area to try and keep Blue Valley more separate from industrial development.

“We do have a rezone that is coming up soon,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and make guarantees, but what I will tell you is I will go and make sure that is part of the discussion to look at the property we own on other sides of (Blue Valley) and that’s something we should seriously consider. I’ll make sure that conversation happens.”

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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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