Developer appeals to build homes next to Shakespeare Festival

The landowners warn Boise City Council that upholding a planning and zoning denial for property next to the Shakespeare Festival would break the law.

sberg@idahostatesman.comNovember 25, 2013 

idaho shakespeare, shakespeare, festival, sweeney todd, musical

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" was among this past summer's IdahoShakespeare Festival productions. A developer appealed planning and zoning's denial of his bid to build a subdivision next to the festival.

KATHERINE JONES — Idaho Statesman file Buy Photo

Almost from the time the Idaho Shakespeare Festival opened its amphitheater in Boise's East End in 1998, its people began informal talks about acquiring rights to or outright ownership of the 12 acres west of the amphitheater, managing director Mark Hofflund said.

Several of those talks took place this year, Hofflund said. Shakespeare representatives and the Triplett family, which owns the land, never discussed a specific price, he said. Both sides' understanding was that a deal would take place sometime around 2018, he said, and that two inactive sewage lagoons on the property would be cleaned up.

Developer Jim Conger changed the timeline late last year when he offered to buy the Tripletts' property and build a 43-home subdivision on it. Ann Triplett "took the same offer" to Hofflund, according to a letter from the Tripletts' attorney to Boise Current Planning Manager Cody Riddle.

Hofflund said he knew the price range the Tripletts were looking for. He wouldn't say how much the family wanted, but it was more than the Shakespeare Festival could afford.

TWO-WAY NOISE

Shakespeare's leaders said they've had a good relationship with the Tripletts since opening the amphitheater. The Tripletts even allowed the Shakespeare Festival to pipe sewage to their lagoons for free.

But their supporters protested Conger's plan, saying his subdivision wouldn't fit the surroundings. Thousands of people who attended performances in the amphitheater this summer signed a petition opposing the project. Dozens testified against it at a Boise Planning and Zoning hearing in September.

They said noise from Conger's development would interrupt and detract from performances in the amphitheater. Some raised the opposite concern: that people living in the new houses would complain about noise from the performances and try to restrict or shut down the Shakespeare Festival.

DENIAL AND APPEAL

The Planning and Zoning Commission denied Conger's application for the permits his housing development needs. Commissioners raised concerns about Ada County's access to the nearby Barber Dam and Conger's plan to clean up the lagoons. They said 43 homes on 12 acres would be too many, "given the unique characteristics of surrounding uses."

The Tripletts are now appealing the denial to the City Council. Upholding the denial would violate state and city law, in part because Planning and Zoning commissioners made their decision "without rational basis, or in disregard of the facts and circumstances presented," the Tripletts' attorney said in the letter to Riddle.

Conger and the Tripletts point to the fact that Conger's development density fits Boise's comprehensive plan. Lower-density residential development, office buildings and open space also fit.

The Tripletts said in the letter to Riddle that they value the Shakespeare Festival as "an unquestionable cultural and economic force." But sooner or later, they said, development is going to happen nearby. Conger's proposal is an agreeable alternative, they said, partly because he would clean up the lagoons left from a private sewage system that served a mobile home park.

"Rather than tilting at a windmill of belief that its isolation will last forever, (the festival) should look for ways to coexist with its future neighbors — including this nearby property," the letter reads.


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Sven Berg: 377-6275

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