Boise delays Shakespeare lot annexation

The group trying to raise $1.25 million gets time to figure out a cleanup plan.

sberg@idahostatesman.comApril 4, 2014 

Sewage lagoons in a vacant lot adjacent to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in Boise, 2013.



    The prospects of a new performing arts center in Boise's C.C. Anderson Building have cooled, but the Idaho Shakespeare Festival hasn't abandoned its interest in Downtown, managing producer Mark Hofflund said Tuesday.

    One of the obstacles to turning at least the first floor of the old Bon Marche and Macy's into a Downtown home for the festival is that it would need millions of dollars in hand before work could start. The festival didn't have that money available. Scraping it together from donors would take more time than private, for-profit developers want to wait, Hofflund said.

    The ISF would like to open an indoor facility in Boise eventually, he said.

The Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands wants to have a state-approved plan by the end of April for cleaning up sewage lagoons on a 12-acre lot west of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival's amphitheater in Boise's East End, said Judy Peavey-Derr, who serves on the foundation's fundraising committee.

Once the plan is ready, Peavey-Derr said, the foundation can calculate how much cleanup will cost. That will help calibrate fundraising efforts.

"I know people don't like to donate for cleaning up waste ... unfortunately, that is the requirement that we're going to have to face," Peavey-Derr said.

Last month, the foundation announced that it would buy the lot, which had been the source of a yearlong dispute between Shakespeare Festival supporters, the landowners and developer Jim Conger.

Conger proposed building 43 homes and several storage buildings. Shakespeare leaders and fans worried that noise from Conger's development would make performances in the amphitheater less enjoyable, and that people living in the homes would someday try to limit night-time performances because of festival noise.

In January, the Boise City Council agreed to annex the land, as Conger had requested, but rejected his subdivision plan. Less than two months later, the foundation announced that it had reached terms to buy the 12 acres.

Foundation representatives wouldn't say how much the foundation agreed to pay. They want enough to cover the purchase of the land, lagoon cleanup, and compensation for the time and money Conger put into planning the development.

As of Thursday, the foundation's website showed it had raised $500,000 of its $1.25 million goal.

The foundation has until the end of the year to come up with the money.

The cost of cleaning up the lagoons depends on timing and the future use of the property. For example, if the foundation plans to leave the space undeveloped or turn it into a small wildlife area, cleanup standards would be much less strict, Peavey-Derr said. A park where children are meant to play would require more thorough remediation.

Peavey-Derr said the foundation will try to remove soil and muck from the lagoons late in the summer, when it's driest. That would reduce the difficulty and cost of moving and dumping the material, she said.

On Tuesday, the City Council granted the foundation's request to delay its final vote on annexing the land into city limits. Peavey-Derr said the foundation wants time to figure out whether it's best to keep the property in the unincorporated county or continue with the annexation. A zoning designation that fits the property's use is another puzzle to solve if annexation occurs, she said.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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