A day after Ada County commissioners unanimously approved the layout of the first 99 homes in Dry Creek Ranch, their chairman, Dave Case, vented his frustration with a group of protesters that has criticized him and his colleagues for their decision and the process leading up to it.
“I’m really getting kind of tired of their antics,” Case told the Idaho Statesman on Friday. “It’s just getting old. The term that comes to my mind is snowflake.”
At the commissioners’ meeting Thursday, a group aligned with the the Dry Creek Valley Coalition staged a silent protest. They wore black tape over their mouths and held signs that read “SILENCED.”
One of their complaints about the approval of Dry Creek Ranch has been that county government went out of its way to shut down their activism against the 1,800-home development.
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“That’s not true,” Case said, pointing to a public hearing in February 2017 when dozens of opponents spoke against Dry Creek Ranch. “What they’re mad about is they just didn’t like the decision.”
The protesters’ leader, Stephanie Rael, of Boise, believes commissioners made up their minds before the hearing and subsequent vote to approve the project. Case said he and fellow commissioners Rick Visser and Jim Tibbs took the opponents’ concerns seriously. If they had voted against the project, he said, they would have put the county at risk of an expensive lawsuit they would have lost.
That’s not a good enough reason to approve a project, Rael said.
“Their job as commissioners isn’t to avoid getting sued,” she said. “It’s to do what’s right for their community.”
Case said his fear of the courtroom wasn’t the only reason he voted to approve Dry Creek Ranch.
“You’re asking me as a person who took an oath of office — to uphold the Constitution and the state laws — to violate the laws by not allowing these people to do what they’re entitled to do with their property,” he said.
The story below was published July 31, 2018, under the headline “‘We’re not going away,’ Boise woman vows after Dry Creek petition falls short”
Organizers have come up short in their petition to stop developer Boise Hunter Homes’ 1,800-home Dry Creek Ranch project between State Highway 55 and Hidden Springs.
“I am sorry to report that we have not collected enough signatures to get our referendum on the ballot,” Stephanie Rael, who spearheaded the petition, wrote Monday on Facebook.
It’s unclear how many signatures Rael and the dozens of volunteers she organized obtained. Christina Stucker-Gassi, a Meridian woman who helped in the effort, said Tuesday that there were “thousands and thousands” but she didn’t know exactly how many.
The initiative sought to overturn the county ordinance authorizing and regulating Dry Creek Ranch. Ada County commissioners approved the project early last year.
Boise Hunter Homes hopes to start laying foundations within two months in Dry Creek’s 96-home first phase, located east of Highway 55 and south of the Shadow Valley Golf Course in the Foothills north of Eagle.
Opponents of the project worry about the loss of farmland on Boise’s outskirts and degradation of wildlife habitat.
Boise Hunter Homes pointed out that, eight years ago, Ada County approved a plan to build 3,500 homes on the 1,400-acre Dry Creek site. The new plan reduces that by almost 50 percent and more than doubles the amount of open space from 187 acres to 467 acres.
The development has its own wastewater treatment plant, and fees paid by homeowners will fund initiatives to reduce its impact on wildlife.
Rael tried to use Idaho’s citizen referendum process to stop the project through a public vote. To put the measure on Ada County’s ballot in November, the petition needed more than 40,000 verified signatures. Monday afternoon was the deadline for turning those in.
“We’re not giving up on Dry Creek,” Rael wrote. “There are still plenty of ways we can fight this irresponsible development.”
It’s unclear how. Rael did not return phone calls Monday and Tuesday. Stucker-Gassi said the group has no formal plan.
Like Rael, however, Stucker-Gassi said the petition process has galvanized thousands of Ada County residents who want farmland to be protected and want local governments to be more responsive to public concerns about development.
Travis Hunter, co-owner of Boise Hunter Homes, said Tuesday that work on Dry Creek Ranch did not depend on the outcome of the petition.
“Our plans didn’t really change from the beginning,” he said.