Boise & Garden City

‘Cookie-cutter houses in a row’: Big Boise development moves man to sing to City Council

Neighbors in northwest Boise turned out in droves to speak about a proposed subdivision that could bring nearly 300 homes to their community. Some even showed up to sing about it.

People who live near the proposed Prominence subdivision are concerned about what the influx of development would mean for the local elementary school and for traffic. The neighborhood would bring 156 single-family homes and as many as 130 multifamily units on 38 acres on West Hill Road Parkway between Duncan and Bogart lanes.

Some people are afraid the development would mean giving up the more rural character of the city’s northwestern corner. A lot of people worry about what would happen if a fire broke out.

During a lengthy Boise City Council hearing Tuesday night, dozens of neighbors encouraged council members to reject the new subdivision, a project by Trilogy Development, owned by Boise businessman John A. Laude Sr.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend denial of the subdivision in May, just a few weeks after commissioners for the Ada County Highway District expressed “significant concerns” about it. The council was hearing an appeal of the Planning and Zoning decision.

The northwestern-most portion of Boise was annexed just a few years ago, and those who live there have been working to develop a neighborhood plan in the time since. That’s just one concern for neighbors, who say that without a neighborhood plan, it can be difficult to say for sure what the priorities should be for new development.

The area is primarily rural even as the rest of the city experiences explosive growth. The rural character is something loved by those who live there. One man, Bob Parsley, sang a two-minute song about his love for his neighborhood and how he didn’t want it to change.

“You won’t drive past the cornfields or the places the flowers grow,” Parsley sang. “You’ll drive past cookie-cutter houses — they’ll be standing in their row.”

Perhaps the biggest concern, however, was the potential for a fire in the area, something residents say would only get worse as density increased.

Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan said the area receives comprehensive fire coverage, as the Boise and Eagle fire departments and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management provide mutual aid.

“We are currently working with North Ada County Fire and Rescue to improve service in the northwest and address population growth in the area,” Doan said in an email to the Statesman. “The mayor, City Council and myself are all committed to providing exceptional fire services both in northwest Boise and throughout the city.”

For many residents, however, that isn’t sufficient. Brandy Thomas, who lives just east of where the new subdivision would be, told the council that her daughters and all the children in the neighborhood “deserve adequate fire protection.”

City Council Prominence
A woman testifies before Boise City Council on Tuesday, July 17, to oppose the proposed Prominence subdivision on West Hill Road in Northwest Boise. Dozens of neighbors spoke against the subdivision. The council said it will make a decision next week. Hayley Harding

“If our home catches fire, we are at an increased risk, and not because we did anything to put ourselves at risk,” Thomas testified. “We’re at risk because the city has put us in that position by not fulfilling its duty to our neighborhood by building fire stations that close the coverage gaps.”

Testimony from neighbors and other Boiseans stretched for hours, keeping those in attendance in the council’s chambers past midnight, when the lights automatically turned off in the room.

The late night prompted the council to delay its deliberation and decision to next week’s meeting, which will be noon on Tuesday, June 24, at City Hall. City Council President Lauren McLean thanked those in attendance and told those in attendance that council members would not communicate among themselves about the issue between Tuesday night’s hearing and the deliberation next week.

Council President Pro Tem Elaine Clegg said there is value in waiting until next week.

“This is never easy stuff, and I really appreciate all the informed testimony we got tonight,” Clegg said. “I’ve seen a lot of really bad decisions made after 12 o’clock, especially when I was sitting on that side of the dais, so I’d prefer not to be on this side of the dais when a decision is made that late at night.”

This story has been revised. An earlier version incorrectly said there is a state-mandated response time to fires. Fire departments have level-of-service standards that include response times.

Related stories from Idaho Statesman

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.