Boise & Garden City

Owners of sliding Terra Nativa homes finally catch a break

Judge Melissa Moody on Wednesday denied a request from a group of defendants to rule in their favor in a case stemming from the destruction of a handful of homes in the Boise Foothills.

One of the defendants who asked for a summary judgment is Douglas Unger, who designed infrastructure such as the sewer and water systems for the homes, which are in the Terra Nativa subdivision north of the Table Rock recreation area. Another is Kleinfelder, Inc., an engineering company the city of Boise hired to review another firm’s analysis of the ground under the homes.

Other defendants in the case include developers Timothy Day and Richard Pavelek, more engineering specialists, the city of Boise and the Terra Nativa Homeowners Association.

The plaintiffs are five families whose homes have suffered extensive damage and are no longer habitable because the ground under them has shifted about 10 feet downward over the past year-and-a-half.

The case is scheduled to go to trial April 16, 2018.

None of the plaintiffs had landslide insurance. As the case grinds its way through court, they are left paying mortgages on the destroyed homes in addition to new mortgages or rent for the homes where they live now. The city also ordered them to tear them down at their own expense.

But at least they won’t have to pay taxes on unlivable houses. On May 30, Ada County commissioners approved property tax exemptions for all five homes — as well as the lots they’re built on — affected by the Terra Nativa landslide.

The exemption is a significant relief. In 2015, the year before problems started appearing, taxes on those five homes ranged as high as $22,000.