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What Boise mobile-home park residents won – and lost – in fight to stop truck terminal

Residents want to protect their backyard from a diesel fueling station

A trucking company wants to build a terminal next to a mobile home park in fast-growing Boise. Residents fear diesel fumes, 24/7 noise, increased traffic. The controversy pits affordable housing and a vulnerable population against business.
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A trucking company wants to build a terminal next to a mobile home park in fast-growing Boise. Residents fear diesel fumes, 24/7 noise, increased traffic. The controversy pits affordable housing and a vulnerable population against business.

A trucking company will have to extend sound barriers to better muffle sounds heading toward a neighboring mobile home park from a proposed trucking terminal south of the Boise Airport.

The Boise Design Review Committee voted 5-1 to approve the proposal from R+L Carriers. The decision came after nearly three hours of testimony Wednesday night. Neighbors from the Blue Valley mobile home park complained about noise, diesel fumes and potential danger to children living in the area, which is just west of Interstate 84.

The company, which plans to build a terminal with about 100 bays, agreed before the meeting to install an 8-foot wall to keep truck sounds from bothering neighbors. But many of the people said that didn’t go far enough.

Committee member Thomas Zabala, an architect, suggested raising the wall or berm to the height of the tallest stacks from the trucks that would use the terminal. The committee accepted that recommendation.

The committee restricted the terminal’s hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The company will also have to install landscape buffers to shield views of the terminal from the neighborhood and nearby streets.

After the vote, Chairman James Marsh told the audience, which totaled about 125 at the start of the hearing, that he hoped they felt their voices had been heard, even if they didn’t agree with the decision.

The residents of the Blue Valley mobile home park value the peace, quiet, wildlife and affordability of their 200-unit enclave south of Boise Airport. They fear that a proposed truck terminal will threaten all they hold dear. Kelsey Grey

Zabala said the committee appreciated the passion expressed by those who testified and those who submitted letters on the proposal.

“I don’t think there were any members who were not affected by the neighbors’ letters,” he said.

Bonnie Hardey, a resident, said adding the greater height requirement for the sound barrier was a good first step. But she was disappointed by the vote and said opponents would appeal to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

“We won’t stop,” said Hardey, a retired nurse.

Hardey said she opposed allowing the company to install a fueling station at the proposed terminal at 7901 S. Eisenman Road. The underground tanks could leak, and there could be spills from the fueling operation, she said.

The truck terminal is planned for 13 acres of this vacant parcel north of the Blue Valley mobile home park. Kelsey Grey

Earl Mullins, a Boise acoustics engineer commissioned by R&L, testified that noise from the trucks driving into and out of the terminal would not add to overall sound levels. “They will be audible, but they won’t be any louder than the existing noise,” he said.

He said he conducted several sound tests on the property and neighboring parcels, including the trailer park.

Blue Valley was built in the early 1970s. Its 200 manufactured homes, housing about 550 people, surround a central lake, gazebo, fountain and common area.

Several people who testified or wrote to the committee said they could not afford to find new housing somewhere else if the park closed. The park’s owners also opposed R+L’s plans.

The area around Blue Valley was annexed by the city in 2008. At the time, it was zoned for industrial use by Ada County, according to city documents. The mobile home park was not annexed until 2013. It, too, had been zoned for industrial use by the county, and today it has a light-industrial designation.

Andrew Davis, principal architect for BRS Architects of Boise, who represented R+L at the hearing, said there was no opposition to the zoning years ago.

“Not a single person showed up to protest the zoning of this property then,” he said.

Davis also disputed that the terminal would disrupt neighbors’ lives. He said residents are free to “stay or leave just like anyone in the city.”

Stan Richards, director of R+L, based in Wilmington, Ohio, attended the hearing. He said most activity would take place after drivers arrived at about 8 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., and again in the late afternoon, at about 4:30. Rarely, trucks might come in as late as 7:30 p.m., he said.

No trucks would be left idling overnight, Richards said. It’s company policy to unhitch the trucks from the trailers and park them in another part of the terminal. The trailers are left parked with their backs against the bay doors.

Several Blue Valley residents testified that they wanted to be treated with respect, just like people from more affluent neighborhoods.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @JohnWSowell.
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