Boise & Garden City

Terra Nativa destruction, legal battle deepen

Terra Nativa is getting worse

Six months after Terra Nativa homeowners started noticing cracks in their houses, damage from a gradual landslide continues.
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Six months after Terra Nativa homeowners started noticing cracks in their houses, damage from a gradual landslide continues.

The city of Boise is a defendant in a lawsuit several homeowners in the Foothills development Terra Nativa are pursuing.

The homeowners first filed their complaint in mid-May, according to court records. At the time, defendants included Terra Nativa developers Richard Pavelek and Tim Day, as well as a bevy of engineering companies and their employees.

A handful of homes in Terra Nativa continue to sustain damage as the ground beneath them slowly shifts downhill. This slow-motion destruction first came to light in March, when cracking showed up in one of the homes.

On June 24, the homeowners filed an amended complaint that named the city of Boise as a defendant. The new version of the complaint repeats accusations plaintiffs leveled in tort claims filed months ago: that the city had access to plenty of evidence pointing to historic landslides and, thus, ground instability in the Foothills, but violated its own policies and allowed the developers to build Terra Nativa’s third phase on North Alto Via Court just north of Table Rock anyway.

“Aerial photographs of the area prior to development on North Alto Via Court clearly show the existence of the prior landslides in, around and under the area of the subdivision,” the complaint claims.

The Boise attorney, who lives on Alto Via Court in the Foothills, wants to make sure he and his neighbors are compensated for damage to their houses from shifting ground.

The question is whether those photographs and other documentation identify areas of instability with enough precision to conclude that the city and other defendants should have known Terra Nativa 3 was an unsafe place to build. William Phillips, a research geologist for the Idaho Geological Survey, told the Statesman he’s seen no such specificity.

The city has claimed all along that it required the developers to conduct geological assessments of the ground and then hired a third-party expert to review those assessments. That process turned up no signs of trouble, the city claims.

“None of our perspective on this has changed,” city spokesman Mike Journee said.

Cracks in Alto Via Court have worsened the last few weeks, to the point Ada County Highway District says it can't keep up.

Journee declined to comment further because the case is now before the courts.

An attorney for the homeowners was not available Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a handful of houses in Terra Nativa continue to sustain damage as the ground beneath them slowly shifts downhill. This slow-motion destruction first came to light in March, when cracking showed up in one of the homes. Most of the houses along Alto Via now show significant damage, and no one appears to be living in any of them.

Besides the lawsuit, Boise is also the subject of a tort claim filed by Ada County Highway District, which was once the target of similar claims by Terra Nativa homeowners but is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

Look down from this high-end housing development into the Treasure Valley.

The highway district’s claim restates — in almost the same wording — similar points that the lawsuit levels against the city.

Tort claims are notices of pending lawsuits against government entities. It’s unclear, though, how serious ACHD is about pursuing legal action against Boise.

The district filed the tort claim “mostly to preserve options moving ahead,” spokesman Craig Quintana said.

The ground shift in the Boise Foothills continues, damaging homes and opening a chasm alongside Alto Via Court.

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