Boise & Garden City

As city officials push for a new library, here’s what a commission just decided

The Boise Planning and Zoning Commission has voted to recommend denial of a plan to rezone the site of The Cabin to help clear the way for the city’s proposed new, larger main library.

City officials recommended the rezoning, but Boise residents who testified Monday at a public hearing unanimously said they wanted the decision denied or at least delayed. The commission’s vote drew applause from activists and audience members.

Surprise testimony came from former Boise Mayor Brent Coles, who resigned from the job the same day the state attorney filed two corruption charges against him in 2003. Coles said he was against the rezoning because Boise is well-known for its open space and features such as The Cabin, and he is against any rezoning that may put any of those things at risk.

“It brings back memories of the 1970s when we were tearing down downtown,” Coles said. “To move the log cabin ... it’s a historic building, it’s important to use and it’s important to our community.”

The city plans an $85 million library on the same spot as the current library just north of The Cabin on Capitol Boulevard. The new building, designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, would include an event space, housing for the city Arts and History Department and a plaza.

The Cabin, a log structure built in 1940, is set to be relocated to the northeast corner of Julia Davis Park. Its proposed relocation and the library’s cost have drawn opposition and led in part to a petition drive to put the library on the November ballot. About 7,000 people signed the petitions, which still await certification from county officials.

The new zoning would allow for denser development than the current zoning does.

The city requested the 4.8 acres be changed from A-1 (open land and parks), A-1C (open land with Capitol Boulevard special design district) and R-ODD (residential office with downtown design review overlay) to C-5DD and C-5DDC, (central business district with downtown design review and with Capitol Boulevard special district design, respectively).

The city also requested a change in the parking zoning.

City planning officials said such changes would transition the land from a suburban general commercial zoning to a downtown urban zoning in line with the area. The change in parking zoning would encourage walking, biking and the use of public transit rather than using cars, they said.

“I’m not sure how you would clean up A-1C by making it C-5,” Commissioner Janelle Finfrock said to audience laughter, referring to how C-5 is a more urban zoning. “I’m a little confused about that.”

Commissioner Meredith Stead said she would be uncomfortable recommending approval of the rezoning without having

the new library’s project plan in front of her.

Commissioner Milt Gillespie moved to recommend the denial, a motion seconded by Commissioner Jim Bratnober. Commission Co-chair Tamara Ansotegui was not present.

The proposed rezoning will now go before the City Council.

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Hayley covers local government for the Idaho Statesman with a primary focus on Boise. Previously, she worked for the Salisbury Daily Times, the Hartford Courant, the Denver Post and McClatchy’s D.C. bureau. Hayley graduated from Ohio University with degrees in journalism and political science.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.