With Supreme Court case looming, Boise proposes law to allow higher buildings in some zones

sberg@idahostatesman.comJune 3, 2014 

— Sometime in the next month, the city of Boise's planning staff will present a law to the City Council that would allow a maximum height of 65 feet for buildings in its residential-office zone. 

Building height in the R-O zone is a sticking point in a case set to come before the Idaho Supreme Court this week. In that case, a company managed by Eileen Barber, co-founder of Boise technology firm Keynetics, is suing to stop New Jersey-based developer The Michaels Organization's plan for a 175-apartment, 622-bed apartment complex on Royal Boulevard next to Keynetics.

Council members ultimately decided that the timing of Barber's Supreme Court case has nothing to do with a potential change in the R-O zone's height allowance. Council President Maryanne Jordan pointed out that city planners have long taken issue with the R-O zone's current entitlements and restrictions.

The  problem, planners say, is that the zone allows as many as 87 living units per acre, but that density is impossible because, with certain exceptions, the zone restricts building heights to 35 feet.

Most of the land in Boise's R-O zone is located close to Downtown, where planners encourage high-density residential and commercial development. Council members said they're worried about increasing maximum building heights in a few exceptions to that rule, including some land in the Harris Ranch area and near free-standing homes on the western fringe of Downtown. 

They said they want to hear from members of the public, particularly people who live near land zoned R-O, before taking a final vote on whether to pass the proposed height change into law. Staff members expect the proposal to come before the council for a first reading within a month, followed by at least two subsequent readings and, possibly, a vote.

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