Columbia Village dog park divide
The Columbia Village Owners Association allocated $10,000 to build a fence for a private off-leash dog park in a common space area about a quarter mile off of Idaho Highway 21 on East Grand Forest Drive — a new amenity near a paved walking path that would allow many residents to access it on foot.
"Our goal is to get everybody out of their houses to socialize," said Scott Horsburgh, whose term as president of the Columbia Village Owners Association ended in March. "This is a community."
But that goal won't be realized.
The 5-foot-tall, chain-link fence for the park was more than half built when the whole project went sideways, and construction was stopped mid-build due to concerns from residents, including water contamination from animal waste. Though the city initially gave its blessing, the project was rejected after it was appealed by a resident in the subdivision.
Both city and Ada County Highway District officials said dog waste from the site — which is a storm catch basin — could potentially contaminate storm water leaving the site, impacting drinking water quality. Under state and federal law, ACHD has the responsibility to make sure the water entering the stormwater system is clean, a spokesman for the agency said.
"You don't want dog poop in a drainage area that is frequently wet and ultimately drains into Fivemile Creek, which is part of the Boise River drainage system," ACHD's Craig Quintana said. "We all remember what happened with Quinn's Pond."
Last year, unhealthy levels of e. coli bacteria caused by dog and goose poop forced the closure of Quinn's Pond and Esther Simplot Park ponds.
There's a city dog park at Military Reserve. The catch basins there are different than the one at Columbia Village in that they are large enough to hold catastrophic amounts of water.
The Columbia Village Owners Association is a not-for-profit corporation that represents more than 1,800 homeowners in the Columbia Village, Silverado Ranch, Basalt Bluffs, Whistler Ridge, Kelton Crossing and Superior Ridge subdivisions.
According to meeting minutes from April, the new board of the homeowners association discussed three options for the half-built dog park: complete the fence at a cost of $3,654.87, remove the concrete and fence for $6,500 or cut the fence and leave the concrete posts at ground level for $2,500.
“In response to safety and liability concerns, the CVOA Board voted to complete the partially installed fence on Grand Forest," the board said in a written statement Tuesday to the Statesman via its property management company. "As the dog park project is not moving forward, the area within the fence will be secured. There are no plans to use the space at this time.”
The fence will be locked and "no trespassing" signs will be posted, meeting minutes show.
The proposed dog park became a divisive issue at Columbia Village.
Some of the nearest neighbors to the weedy, brush-covered field at 4863 E. Grand Forest Drive said they found out about the dog park plan when the heavy equipment rolled in to erect the fence last summer. The designated park area was just .78 acres in 11 acres of common space.
"Nobody knew what was going on," Columbia Village resident Jennifer Johnson said.
They called City Hall to find out. "They said, 'We have no idea,'" Johnson recalled.
Horsburgh, who shepherded the dog park project, said he was told it would not need a permit for the fence since it was less than 6 feet tall. After he was contacted by a city official who had concerns that the use for the site was changing, he filed an application for a conditional use permit on Aug. 31, 2017.
The city approved the conditional use permit, but Johnson filed an appeal. She listed numerous concerns, including storm water contamination, ADA compliance, improper permit application, noise impacts, insufficient notification of nearby residents, flood plain documentation and destruction of wildlife habitat. Planning staff upheld the appeal solely on the basis of water contamination concerns after receiving information about potential storm water contamination the staff didn't have initially.
Horsburgh said the dog park was in the works for three or four years and discussed at recent annual meetings, as well as other HOA meetings. The HOA could have gone door-to-door to ensure that residents closest to the proposed dog park knew about the project, but they did not.
"Could we have communicated better? Absolutely," Horsburgh said. "That's kind of why we hired a new management company. They have an email database. Anybody that is interested in what's going on in the community, they will have a constant contact notification sent out. We revised our website to make sure that any new and upcoming events, news, anything interesting in the subdivision would be posted out there. They can get more details on it after they get a constant contact notification."
"I think because of this, going forward, making sure that homeowners are aware of what's going on, and get their buy-in, and get their ideas is probably the way of the future, absolutely the way of the future," he said.
Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413