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Ada Co. denies apartment proposal in favor of keeping land open for mixed-use development

An undeveloped lot at a busy Southwest Boise intersection is staying put for now after Ada County nixed a proposal to rezone it from commercial development to multifamily residential. 

Last week, the Ada County Commissioners heard hours of testimony from neighbors near the intersection of Five Mile and Lake Hazel Roads late into the night as they voiced their opposition to a proposal to build a 128 subdivision on a long-vacant lot across the street from Albertsons. The project, called, Alante Homes at Lockwood, would have featured a mix of one, two and three-bedroom, patio-style homes for rent at upscale prices. 

Neighbors said Southwest Boise, which lies in the City of Boise’s area of impact but was never annexed, is in need of more small businesses, restaurants and other amenities that currently require them to travel miles to Overland Road or elsewhere to run errands. They argued the 11.4-acre parcel should not be developed for residential and prevent more commercial businesses from coming into the area, especially as thousands of homes at planned communities like Locale and Murio Farms could come online in coming years. 

But, the Utah-based developer PEG Companies argued the area has not had any viable proposals or commercial development since the area was first developed and approved for commercial in 2006. Without another alternative, the area will continue to sit vacant for years. 

Commissioners saw both sides of the issue during the hearing but ultimately decided the overwhelming testimony was enough to vote it down so the developer could bring forth a new proposal with more commercial space. All three voted it down. 

“I certainly don’t relish denying any application because I am generally loathed to tell people what they can and can’t do on their property, but this was zoned commercial, and this seems like it was the intent of the people who came before us and it seems like it’s more appropriate to keep it or consider a different proposal,” Republican Commissioner Ryan Davidson said. 

No mix of uses? No go 

Marisa Keith, president of Southwest Ada County said it’s important that the area of impact be a neighborhood where residents can live, shop, work and do other daily tasks without having to leave the area. She said residents wouldn’t be asking for it to remain commercial, which has much heavier traffic, if they weren’t in need of services.  

“It strikes me how rare it is for a community to come ask for more commercial when they could have a much quieter use of residential next to them,” Keith said. “I think that speaks to the need out there.”

The City of Boise also opposed this rezone because the city’s Comprehensive Plan marks the area as a neighborhood activity center that should have much higher density than what was proposed on it and should include a mix of uses, like live work units throughout the project. 

David Bourne, with PEG Companies, had a different take. He pointed out that the general area around the parcel already has other commercial uses, like Albertsons, a McDonalds, an urgent care and other services, but because the area is mostly populated with single-family homes on large lots, it doesn’t have the density to attract viable commercial development right now. 

Courtesy of Ada County

At one point, he said if the commissioners turn down residential development on the parcel, it will remain undeveloped, and a few audience members clapped. He said their reaction to it possibly staying undeveloped for years shows what they really hope to happen rather than a sincere desire for commercial development. 

“It has been an empty lot for the past 16 years, and during the time the owner has not received a single viable offer from someone offering to build a commercial product in this space,” Bourne said. “Often when a developer comes before the board and says “the best thing that should be built here is what we’re good at building” and that’s not the case here because we also have experience building restaurants, hotels, and multifamily. We’re suggesting this because it’s the best thing to be built here.”

Bourne said if this project was not approved, his company would go back to the drawing board with something more along the lines of what Boise was wanting, which would very likely entail denser housing. 

Commissioner opt to see another proposal down the line

Commissioner Kendra Kenyon, a Democrat, said she would be more interested in seeing a mixed-use development on the site, instead of purely residential. 

The combination of the overwhelming testimony against the idea and the thousands of homes that could be coming online in the area soon made her want to go for a concept with a commercial component, as opposed to simply housing. 

“While I really like the product and I think the builder has a great reputation, in my 4 years of doing this I have never had 450 people oppose a project and most of them in the neighborhood,” Kenyon said. “I think we’re all familiar with this neighborhood and how much it’s grown out there.”

Commissioner Rod Beck, a Republican, said he was confused at the demands from residents for more commercial businesses, while at the same time complaining about traffic and how a multifamily development would add more cars to the area. 

“If traffic is the main issue and commercial brings more traffic (than residential), I’m trying to understand what the nexus is there,” Beck said. “Is traffic really the issue?”

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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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