Boise & Garden City

Boise passes emergency law targeting rogue duplexes

Parking perpendicular to the street in front of a handful of “duplexes” south and east of the Boise State University campus has raised concerns about whether these buildings meet the intent of the city’s design standards for duplexes.
Parking perpendicular to the street in front of a handful of “duplexes” south and east of the Boise State University campus has raised concerns about whether these buildings meet the intent of the city’s design standards for duplexes.

Over the past two years, developers have received permits for nine “duplexes” that met Boise’s technical standards but violated their intent, Boise planning director Hal Simmons told the Boise City Council on Tuesday.

These projects, built south and east of the Boise State University campus, have as many as 10 bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, Simmons said. That’s more characteristic of student dormitories than the homes of up to three bedrooms that Boise’s code anticipates, he said.

Some use required open space, typically in the backyard, for parking. Some allow parking perpendicular to the street in front of the house.

This creates an eyesore and causes safety problems, people who live in the neighborhood said.

So the council — acting on an unusually accelerated schedule — introduced, heard and passed a law Tuesday aimed at closing the loopholes in Boise’s planning code that Simmons said some developers have exploited in building the rogue duplexes.

The law does not affect the nine permitted projects, some of which haven’t been built yet, Simmons said Wednesday.

Council President Elaine Clegg and Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan reasoned that, because these “duplexes” are creating hazards, an emergency passage of the law was warranted.

Councilman Scot Ludwig, who’s also a developer, disagreed. He agreed that the city’s law needs to be cleaned up to close the duplex loophole, but he said that such a significant change to the law should be done through the standard full-length process, which includes three public readings of the law and, sometimes, a public engagement effort that takes into account feedback from developers, neighborhood leaders and the like.

Ludwig was the only council member to vote against the new law. Four members of the public spoke, all in favor of the change.

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