Contentious Dry Creek Ranch development north of Boise is back with new plans

The developer of an 1,800-home planned community north of Boise is seeking permission to begin work on the project’s next phase.

Boise Hunter Homes has submitted plans for 652 single-family lots, 28 multi-family units and 85,000 square feet of commercial development for its Dry Creek Ranch development in Northwestern Ada County.

Located on the east side of Highway 55 near the Shadow Valley Golf Course, the development is planned on 538 acres along the southwest portion of the property. Boise Hunter Homes proposes 1.3 dwelling units per acre while including more than 250 acres of open space and parks.

The Dry Creek Ranch development has long been contentious. It was one of at least seven planned communities proposed in Ada County in 2006, when home construction was booming ahead of the Great Recession.

Dry Creek Ranch originally included plans for 4,300 homes. The development was approved, but it never got off the ground before the housing market crashed.

Homes in the Dry Creek Ranch development look out on the Boise Foothills. John Sowell

In late 2016, Boise Hunter Homes, which wasn’t involved in the original development, bought the land and applied for an amendment to reduce the number of homes and amount of commercial space.

Some people concerned with conversion of farmland and open space to housing opposed the project, which was later approved for 1,815 units in 2017. Ninety-six homes have been completed or are under construction. Another 127 are under development. Boise Hunter Homes and seven other construction companies building between 100 and 125 homes per year.

Last year, the group Save Dry Creek, which opposes the development, tried to place the issue on the ballot but was unable to obtain the needed 40,000 signatures. It was unclear whether voters could legally overturn a planning and zoning decision, but it never came to a vote.

Travis Hunter, co-owner of Boise Hunter Homes, said the application before the Planning and Zoning Commission is a formality. The housing units that are part of the currently application — which provide greater density — were approved as part of the original development, but weren’t laid out. The application for a preliminary plat shows where those units will be located.

“This isn’t a new development, but it essentially allows us to lay out all of the amenities and facilities and houses in the part of the development,” Hunter said. “It’s basically moving toward a finalization of the layout.”

Boise Hunter Homes’ plans for the third phase of its Dry Creek Ranch development off Highway 55 north of Boise include single-family homes and townhouses. Commercial space would be available north of Dry Creek Road, at the upper left, along with the townhouses, a clubhouse and athletic fields. Provided by Boise Hunter Homes

At the current pace, it could take 15 to 18 years to build all of the houses for the complete project. Boise Hunter Homes is seeking approval for its concluding preliminary plat now so that it has the option to add roads, build townhouses, add a store, restaurant and other commercial uses and solidity the space where the developer will donate a piece of land for the Eagle Fire Department to add a station.

“So far, we don’t have any users for the commercial space,” Hunter said. “If someone wants to begin building the commercial space, that becomes a reality.”

Having the approval would also allow the company to begin development of a 7,500-square-foot clubhouse and recreation area north of Dry Creek Road and next to an existing community farm — only 40 acres of commercial farmland was converted due to the project. Plans call for a swimming pool, fitness room. locker rooms, lounge and covered patio. Soccer and baseball fields would be built farther north, across a parking lot. Walking paths would connect Dry Creek Ranch with the Ridge to Rivers Trail system, providing public access to the Eagle Bike Park farther south and Stack Rock to the east.

Boise Hunter Homes has also donated a site for a new West Ada School District elementary school. A wildlife mitigation fund, funded by home closing fees and homeowner association dues, will provide an estimated $3 million when the entire project is completed and another $200,000 yearly from the HOA dues.

The developer is also paying $6,500 per unit to ACHD, more than double the normal impact fee, to be used for road improvements. The company is also paying for widening Highway 55 and Dry Creek Road and installing a traffic light at the highway and Brookside Lane.

Homes on West Mirror Pond Drive in the Dry Creek Ranch development off Highway 55 just north of Eagle have been completed. Boise Hunter Homes, the developer, is seeking approval for another 652 single-family lots, 28 multi-family units and 85,000 square feet of commercial development. John Sowell

Stephanie Rael, who opposes the Dry Creek development and headed the effort to put the measure on the ballot, has encouraged others to voice their concerns over the current application with the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“This development will fundamentally change the character of the entire valley,” said Rael, who used to work at Peaceful Belly Farm, which had operated in the Dry Creek Valley before relocating last year to the Sunnyslope area of Caldwell. “There’s going to be almost 5,000 people there, so it’s basically a small city without any of the services of a city. They’re reliant on surrounding cities to provide their basic services.”

Among her concerns, Rael said an updated traffic analysis should be completed, there’s no timeline for when the fire station will get built and there are questions about whether there’s enough water to supply the entire development. She said she’s also worried about how the development will affect wintering habitat for elk and mule deer.

Approval for the Dry Creek Ranch was based on a traffic study for the full development, Hunter said, so an update is not needed. The Eagle Fire Department will decide when to build the new fire station, just as the West Ada School District will decide when a new school is needed. He said water and sewer service, provided by private companies set up by the developer, is adequate for the entire development.

“We have thoroughly vetted all of those,” Hunter said. “We’ve done extensive studies and both transportation and water have very comprehensive plans.”

Rael also said the development does not promote affordable housing, with houses being offered for more than $400,000. Last month, the median price of a single-family home in Ada County climbed to a record $355,000.

Housing affordability is a complex issue, Hunter said, driven by supply and demand. If a buyer from out of state comes to Boise looking for a house in the $400,000 to $450,00 range and there’s nothing available in that price range, they go looking at other homes.

“They go to the Bench, they go to areas that locals have historically gone to for affordable housing and then they bid up that $350,000 or $375,000 house to get it,” he said. “Supply and demand is all interconnected, so, in general, adding housing does help the affordable aspect.”

The Ada County Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a hearing at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3, in the hearing room on the first floor of the Ada County Courthouse, 200 Front St., Boise.

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Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.