The Ada County Fourth District Court did not have much sympathy for the Northwest Neighborhood Association of Boise’s arguments against a 226-unit subdivision near Hill Road Parkway.
In mid-July, the NWNA had its day in court to continue its fight against the Prominence subdivision of Trilogy Development, which it has fiercely opposed since its introduction in 2017. At the hearing, counsel for the Neighborhood association Brian Ertz argued that the town of Boise had illegally approved the subdivision and said the density of the project would negatively impact the private property rights of neighbors by harming wildlife and putting their endangered health, straining the fire response system.
[Northwest Boise residents push back against housing density in zoning code proposal]
Judge Deborah Bail sided with the town of Boise and the developer, allowing the project to continue.
“The Northwest Neighborhood Association has not shown that city council has violated constitutional or statutory provisions; overstepping the agency’s statutory authority, acted in an illegal procedure; that his decision was not supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, or that it was arbitrary, capricious or constituted an abuse of discretion. “
NWNA Chairman Richard Llewellyn said the neighborhood was considering taking the case to higher court for another review of its case.
“We are currently exploring our options for moving forward as we are confident in the underlying merits of our case,” Llewellyn wrote in an email.
Judge insensitive to arguments about the “visual context”
Idaho is a strong state when it comes to property rights, and in the ruling, Bail noted that the Idaho Supreme Court had previously ruled that it was “not easy” for someone who opposes a development to prove that a project would violate its substantive rights. She said that it is not enough for someone to prove that the local government has misapplied their own ordinance; the group or individual opposing the project must prove that it would have an impact on their property.
“Essentially, the NWNA says that any development of this private land infringes its substantive rights to ‘open space and rural character,’ Bail wrote. “More than is necessary to demonstrate infringement of substantive rights. Otherwise, any development of private land would satisfy the requirement of already existing owners who simply oppose any development or change in the status quo.
The neighborhood association argued that the project would impact the surrounding area in several ways, such as the loss of the “visual context” of the rural character of the area, impacts on the wildlife that lives on the undeveloped property and in irrigation diversions, and the loss of a section of a trail associated with the Oregon Trail which the NWNA says crosses the property.
One by one, Bail’s decision examined various exhibits and other evidence provided by the NWNA and found none to be sufficient. She said several residents testified about the impacts of these changes on their property during the multiple and lengthy hearings held on the project in 2019, but few identified themselves as members of the Northwest Neighborhood Association or given locations. specific to their properties in relation to the Prominence project.
Some nearby residents also argued that the project would impact neighbors’ agricultural uses on their own properties, but Bail said they had not shown how this was possible. Trilogy’s property is former farmland but is zoned for residential development prior to application.
The NWNA submitted several documents arguing for the impact, such as some artwork from James Castle that they said was inspired by the rural character of the neighborhood, but said none of this proved in a way. substantial harm. She also listened to an oral history interview with Steven Matlock conducted by Llewellyn in 2019, but said it was “disjointed” and she couldn’t determine exactly where Matlock was referring when he was referring to described the section of the historic trail that the neighborhood traverses. The area.
“The many existing homes surrounding this area on at least three sides have already caused loss of visual context, loss of wildlife habitat and rural uses, and so on. Bail wrote. “And presumably, many members of the NWNA presumably live in the subdivisions surrounding this area, and their subdivisions presumably caused the same conditions they now oppose.”
Another major point of contention for the Northwest Neighborhood Association has always been the fire department in this section of town.
Since the area was first annexed in 2014, several developments have been approved on the semi-rural outskirts of the city, but construction of a fire station in the neighborhood has not yet started. One of the conditions for Prominence to be approved by city council was that the densest part of the project could not begin construction until the city began on a fire station in northwest Boise. The city is still looking for a location for the project.
In their arguments, the NWNA said that adding more density to the area increases the likelihood that two simultaneous service calls will arrive, and that the fire department will not be able to provide medical treatment or put out a fire in time. They argued that the lack of adequate fire services in the area near the forest-urban interface resulted in “millions of dollars in past damage,” but Bail said he had not provided ” supporting evidence ”for these claims.
Members of the NWNA Association have often argued that the city cannot approve more housing in the Northwest region as most of them are outside of fire response times. that the city is aiming for in its overall plan. Bail rejected this argument, noting that the full plans are not legally binding and only serve as a guide to localities when approving projects.
Bail said there is information on the file suggesting there is no adequate fire coverage in the area, but the neighborhood association has “no authority to support its. claim that it has an equal right of protection to the provision of emergency services as a neighborhood association, or as it seems to argue, that it has a right of protection equal to a certain ratio or providers of emergency services per resident (or degree of distance) for its members.