City hopes for peace in Shakespeare land dispute

Boise wants an agreement on future development, but ISF might just buy the property.

sberg@idahostatesman.comJanuary 16, 2014 

For decades, three sewer lagoons have been in a vacant lot adjacent to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. ISF and others expected a lot of development to come to the Barber Valley, but not this lot, which is not part of Harris Ranch.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

David Triplett said Wednesday he would have to get more than $1 million for the 12 acres he and his wife own just west of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s amphitheater.

He said that’s the minimum fair price for the land, cleaning up two inactive sewage lagoons and compensating developer Jim Conger for the money and time he’s lost trying to develop the property.

Lawyer Gary Allen, who represents the Shakespeare Festival and the nearby Riverland East and Harris Ranch neighborhoods, said festival supporters have come forward with offers to help buy the land as the dispute over the development intensified.

“A ballpark of $1 million, we think, is doable,” Allen said.

After a seven-hour meeting early Wednesday morning, the Boise City Council annexed the Tripletts’ property and rejected Conger’s plan for Barber Mill Estates, a 43-home development with a few storage buildings between East Warm Springs Avenue and the Boise River. As part of the decision, council members required at least one round of mediation between Conger, the Tripletts and people opposed to Conger’s proposed subdivision.

The message was clear: Council members want the land inside city limits so they have greater control over its development, but they are not ready to OK a subdivision. They didn’t like Conger’s plan, particularly the storage buildings he’d added to try to minimize noise conflicts between the homes and the amphitheater.

ISF leaders and fans worry that noise from the homes would make performances in the amphitheater less enjoyable. A more serious concern is that people who live in the homes would complain about noise from the performances and try to shut them down.

If mediation does happen, the city will pay for the first round, at a cost of between $1,000 and $3,000, city spokesman Adam Park said.

It’s hard to say how common or successful mediation has been in Boise history. The one example Park could find took place in 2004 between the Depot Bench neighborhood and developer Bill Clark, who wanted to build condominiums along Crescent Rim overlooking Ann Morrison Park. That mediation wasn’t successful, though Clark ultimately agreed to a smaller development.

It’s not clear whether Conger will accept mediation or the path toward development the City Council offered. Efforts to contact him Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Triplett is open to mediation, but he’s not sure the Shakespeare Festival is.

“The only mediation Shakespeare and the other people want is to purchase (the land) and not have anything there,” he said. “That’s the reality of it.”

Allen said as much Tuesday night, telling the council that the festival’s leaders are against any residential development of the Tripletts’ land, even though it fits the city’s comprehensive plan for the area along Warm Springs Avenue. The more homes, the more discord between the neighbors, Allen said.

As a compromise, Allen said, the Shakespeare Festival would tolerate a development with as many as nine homes on the Tripletts’ land. Conger might not accept a density that low because it would decrease the amount of money he could make off the development.

That’s part of why Allen sees buying the Tripletts’ property as the best course for the Shakespeare Festival.

But having enough money to buy something doesn’t mean the transaction will happen. Over the past year, as the dispute over Conger’s proposal became public, what was once a friendly relationship between the Shakespeare Festival and the Tripletts has devolved into distrust and bitterness. At Tuesday night’s meeting, Ann Triplett, David’s wife, said she won’t sell the property to the Shakespeare Festival no matter what.

“We know that the Tripletts are not particularly interested in selling to Shakespeare,” Allen said. “We’re not particularly interested in owning the property.”

Allen said the most logical long-term owner is the Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands, which also owns part of the Barber Pool Conservation Area just south of the Tripletts’ property.

The State Parks Department headquarters fronts Warms Springs Avenue and is Shakespeare’s neighbor.

Allen said he’s not too worried about the Tripletts rejecting negotiations with the foundation or other surrogates working with Shakespeare.

“We’re next-door neighbors, so we have to deal with each other,” he said. “We can deal with each other in a productive way, or we can deal with each other in more hearings like this. And we sure hope we can find a more productive way. They have to decide ultimately how they want to approach that.”

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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