Boise & Garden City

What it took for Boise City Council to approve a subdivision neighbors fought for months

People living in Boise’s northwestern tip have spent more than a year and a half arguing against the Prominence subdivision, planned to be located off Hill Road Parkway.

When it got to the Ada County Highway District in April, commissioners approved it but expressed “significant concerns” about the project. The commission passed Prominence, a subdivision to be developed by John A. Laude Sr.’s Trilogy Development, in a 3-2 vote after hearing from dozens of people worried about safety and traffic near and from the development.

Plans for the subdivision propose bringing hundreds of homes to an area of the city where residents value living in a relatively rural place, particularly given explosive growth in the rest of the city. When Prominence went before Boise’s Planning and Zoning Commission, commissioners rejected the denser zoning the project would require.

Testimony stretched for so long that when the project went before the Boise City Council the first time in June, the council opted to delay making a decision until its next meeting. It ultimately asked neighbors and developers to spend 60 days working together to try to reach an agreement both sides could get behind.

The new plan came back and was presented to the council Tuesday. It reflected more of the neighbors’ wishes in that more usable open space was added, more pathways were planned and the number of units was cut from 286 (made up of 73 single-family homes, 83 townhouses and 130 multifamily apartments) to 226 (now with 78 single-family homes, 52 townhouses and 96 multifamily apartments).

Prominence final design
A rendering of the newest proposed layout of the Prominence subdivision in northwest Boise. This plan includes 226 units, with 78 single-family homes, 52 townhomes and 96 multi-family apartments. It also features more open space and paths.

It was not the first time the plan had been revised — the initial one had 307 homes.

Part of the unit reduction presented Tuesday included a parcel of the project that the developer is looking to sell to the city instead of developing, with the intention that the land becomes a park.

While neighbors appreciated a plan for preserved some open space and made several other changes, they didn’t think the new plan was perfect either. Many wanted the council to maintain the R-1A zoning in place, which would allow only up to 2.1 units per acre, citing concerns about sprawl. Members of the council weren’t so sure that was the best option.

“I keep hearing you say that developing this more densely is urban sprawl and that 2.1 units per acre would be just fine,” Council President Pro Tem Elaine Clegg told one resident who testified before the council. “My definition of urban sprawl as I understand it is underutilizing land by consuming more of it by building lower density. I’m having a hard time reconciling what I know about sprawl with that.”

The council opted to approve the subdivision and rezone the 38 acres it sits on, but not before attaching several conditions to the development. Those requirements include landscaping with edible plants and fruit trees; no vinyl fencing in the development unless the subdivision’s neighbors specifically request it; and no three-story buildings as was proposed for the apartments included in the project. Another condition stipulated that the first phase of the subdivision could not begin until the final purchase of the land has been negotiated between the city and the developer.

There was also a requirement that the third phase of the project could not begin until Boise begins to build a fire station in the area, which would help to address the safety concerns expressed by many residents, as well as Planning and Zoning commissioners.

Even with the conditions to better match the new development to the existing homes, North West Neighborhood Association President Richard Llewellyn said approving Prominence was “a lost opportunity to really do something right.”

“It’s dysfunctional density,” Llewellyn said in an interview with the Idaho Statesman after the meeting. “They’re not getting density along the transit corridors. All these are going to be car-oriented trips ... clogging Hill Road. And that’s the real tragedy. This would have been a good development next to State Street.”

Llewellyn declined to comment on what the neighbors might do next, saying only that Prominence as planned was “not great.”

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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.