A lawsuit that went all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court over a small parking lot spanning two mayoral administrations in the City of Eagle is now resolved, but the city will now use a long-planned park project to satisfy the court’s order instead of forcing the losing homeowner’s association to rebuild the original parking lot on their property.
The suit pitted the City of Eagle against the homeowners association for Two Rivers subdivision over the closure of a four-space parking lot on S. Channel Way that provided public access to the Greenbelt. The parking lot was open to the public for years, until late 2016 when the city says Two Rivers placed “Resident Only” parking signs and eventually blocked vehicle access with bollards and the city filed suit for the court to enforce the public’s access.
The Idaho Supreme Court eventually sided in the City of Eagle’s favor in 2020, ordering Two Rivers HOA to rebuild the parking lot and open it to the public by October of last year. But, instead, the City of Eagle says it will satisfy the dispute using an easement swap near the construction of a new parking lot at Mace Park near the planned pedestrian bridge over the Boise River near Eagle Road.
BoiseDev sent several questions about the parking lot, who was covering the cost and resolution of the suit to City spokesperson Dana Biberston, who said she was awaiting a response from Eagle’s city attorney before answering due to it being a legal matter. As of the publication of this story, the city did not respond directly to our inquiries and instead sent us to the city’s Just the Facts page.
The city spent roughly $71,000 on the suit, according to payment ledgers obtained in a public records request by BoiseDev.
Messages left for Two Rivers President Kevin Zasio requesting an interview were not returned.
This issue stretches back to 2002.
According to the first complaint filed in Ada County’s Fourth District, the Eagle City Council approved a planned unit development with two streets of the neighborhood private and gated for residents. In exchange, the city approved the small parking lot on S. Channel Way to provide public access to the Greenbelt.
The city in that October 2017 filing the lot was used from 2004 through 2015 fly the public until the city “became aware” Two Rivers HOA had placed “Resident Only” parking signs at the lot. In February 2016, the city says it sent a letter to then-HOA President Victor Miller, who is now the Ada County GOP Chairman, notifying him the lot was public and needed to remain open. The HOA reportedly responded back in July asking the city to cease and desist any public access to the lot.
The city sent another letter in March 2017 reaffirming the public’s right to access the lot. Eventually, in October 2017 the city’s trail coordinator discovered bollards had been erected blocking access to the parking lot. This is when the city, under Mayor Stan Ridgeway, opted to file suit against the HOA.
Two Rivers replied to Eagle in court filings, arguing the area where the parking lot is located is “indisputably owned” by the HOA and the city’s agreement to have the public access was purely a verbal discussion and there is no legal basis for the subdivision to keep the public lot.
The judge in District Court sided with the subdivision in 2019, saying the city did not have a claim to the property because the easement for the lot was never formally conveyed to the city.
Enter the Idaho Supreme Court
After the City of Eagle lost, city council opted to appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court for another chance to make their case. And this time, they were successful.
The opinion from the state’s highest court cited several places in the transcript from the 2002 meetings where the developer of the subdivision specifically offered the parking to alleviate access concerns to the Greenbelt in the area due to two of the nearby streets being gated. ISC said this showed an offer was made, and the city accepted the concept, which led to the lot being built and years of use.
“Looking at the undisputed facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, we hold that the City accepted T.R.’s offer of dedication on May 13, 2003, when it approved T.R.’s design review application,” the May 2020 opinion reads. “More specifically, the City accepted T.R.’s more general offer of dedication made at the November 26, 2002 hearing, and then finalized that acceptance once it approved of the specific location and design of the parking lot contained in T.R.’s design review application.”
This kicked the case back to the Fourth District court for mediation and a resolution in favor of the City of Eagle. This agreement spelled out several requirements for Two Rivers, including that an easement in the area gives the public access, a new lot with 3-4 spaces should be built, paid for and maintained by Two Rivers and it be open for use by October 2021.
Two Rivers says parking lot posed safety risk
It’s unknown exactly what was discussed between Eagle Mayor Jason Pierce, city staff and Two Rivers HOA to come to a decision, but a letter from September 2020 from Two Rivers President Kevin Zasio sheds some light on what might have been discussed. The letter says the HOA acknowledges the result and need to come to a resolution, but also hints at the potential for more litigation against the city.
“I have been advised by our counsel that the issues surrounding the ruling could lead to additional protracted litigation for years,” Zasio said. “Having litigated this matter for close to three years, we felt it was better to work with the City on a positive path forward rather than continue to litigate new issues concerning the parking area. However, while the City has agreed to enter mediation, it also appears the City is more interested in provoking Two Rivers into further litigation than addressing our basic safety concerns that brought this matter to a head in the first place.”
The letter went on to say Two Rivers never had a problem with the parking lot until a few years ago when people were trespassing on private property from the parking lot, which Zasio said led to “safety problems.” He said the city did not do enough to alleviate the neighborhood’s safety concerns and that there is still ample area for people to park on the street to access the Greenbelt and other amenities.
“As I have repeatedly stated, for some reason the parking area invites individuals more interested in trespassing our private property and other illegal activity than the individuals parking on the immediate street,” he said. “I cannot explain the discrepancy but it is a real problem. Ever since Two Rivers removed the parking area following the district court’s decision, the illicit activity has dropped by over 90%.”
City opts to use long-planned city park to satisfy court order
A few weeks ago, the Eagle City Council signed an MOU with Two Rivers for a new parking lot.
But, it’s not at the old location on S. Channel Way.
Instead, Two Rivers agreed to grant a new public easement on property it owns bordering proposed Mace Park nearby on Eagle Road, planned for the terminus of a new pedestrian bridge crossing the Boise River near Eagle Road. This easement will allow the city to build a landscape buffer around the parking lot, as required by code, and use the property for wiring for parking lot lights and sprinklers for irrigation.
At a November 1 Town Hall, Pierce told the crowd Two Rivers would be watering and maintaining the area, but it’s unclear if that maintenance extends to the entire park or just the landscaped areas bordering it. It’s also unclear if Two Rivers is contributing any funds to creating the park or the larger parking lot.
This parking lot and park has been in the works for years, according to the city’s website. The page says talks about the park began in 2011 when the city received the property as a donation to turn into a park as part of the development of Mace River Ranch subdivision. Early renderings on the page from 2013 show a dozen parking spaces, but the most recent drawing shows the parking lot extending further south toward the Two Rivers property with an additional 15 spaces.
BoiseDev asked Idaho Supreme Court spokesperson Nate Poppino about the enforcement of court orders if members of the public feel they are not carried out. He pointed to a section of Idaho’s Rules of Civil Procedure that say a party not carrying out the terms of a court order from a suit could be the basis of a contempt of court motion.
“If a judgment requires a party to convey land, to deliver a deed or other document, or to perform any other specific act and the party fails to comply within the time specified, the court may order the act to be done at the disobedient party’s expense by another person appointed by the court,” the page said. “When done, the act has the same effect as if done by the party.”