Boise & Garden City

120 people came to a meeting, mostly to fight a Foothills subdivision. What a board did

Nearby residents worry about their neighborhood if Colin Connell, a Boise developer, builds 30 new homes in the Boise Foothills.

The Eyrie Terraces subdivision would be near Connell’s existing development, Eyrie Canyon, where North Villa Way and Winter Camp Drive meet northwest of the Hillside to the Hollow Reserve, near Quail Hollow Golf Course.

About 120 people attended a Boise Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Monday where neighbors said they were concerned about houses settling in dangerous ways on the land and fire in the Foothills.

It’s already difficult for emergency services to get to existing homes. Several residents who lived through a 2015 fire told stories of watching fire spread quickly along nearby slopes. Pam Dineen, who still lives in the area, testified that she tried to drive away but was eventually told to shelter in place to keep the roads clear so fire crews could get through.

“You have legal responsibility in terms of what the zoning and all this says, but you have a moral responsibility to the folks that live there now and could live there in the future,” Dineen said.

Ron Johnson, assistant fire marshal for the Boise Fire Department, recommended denial of Connell’s project, saying the department has concerns about how emergency vehicles would be able to get in and out. Johnson also said proposed dead-end streets in the development are longer than the allowed 750 feet. Anything longer would need a special exception.

There were also concerns about soil stability and slopes. The developers would effectively level a ridge in the Foothills, cutting and filling hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of soil.

Several people in the area had already seen existing homes settling into the earth, leading to a need to reinforce the homes. They said new houses, especially on moved soil, would make the situation more tenuous.

The project would be on about 21 acres, although the parcel itself is larger. The developers used geotechnical engineers to take a look at the soil to make sure it was stable and found in preliminary tests that it was. Final tests would determine more specifics.

Jason Taylor of Boise’s Public Works Department recommended denying the project, saying that the cut and fills to level the ridge did not balance. “There’s things that can be done to remedy that very easily,” Taylor said. “It just wasn’t done with the plans that were presented to us.”

Dozens of people testified, all but one opposed to the development. That man told the commission he felt that many people were testifying against the very kind of development that made their homes possible.

“We are not opposed to all development, just this irresponsible one,” another man told the commission.

After more than three hours of testimony, the commissioners voted unanimously to recommend denial of a hillside development permit and a preliminary plat for the subdivision. The commission’s greatest concerns were the fire danger and soil quality.

Commissioner Bob Schafer reminded the room that the owner of the property does have the right to develop it, even if the Eyrie Terraces project does not go though.

“Maybe this application isn’t quite the right way to go about it,” Schafer said. “But ultimately, this is private property, and there’s probably going to be some sort of development there in the future.”

The Boise City Council has the final say on Planning and Zoning Commission recommendations. It is not yet known when the project will go before the council.

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.