West Ada

What happened this week to a development near Boise where neighbors worry about water

A developer has taken a step forward in its bid for approval for the next phase of a controversial planned community going up north of Boise, even as neighbors worry whether there will be enough water for everyone.

The Ada County Planning and Zoning Commission is recommending approval of the Boise Hunter Homes’ application for a preliminary plat for the company’s Dry Creek Ranch development.

If approved by Ada County commissioners, the company could build 652 single-family homes, 28 multi-family units and 85,000 square feet of commercial development. They would be part of an 1,815-unit development approved in 2017.

At a public hearing Thursday opponents of the development, which is off Highway 55 north of Boise, expressed concerns about they say is a diminished water source for the community.

Water being directed to the new Dry Creek homes stretches the water supply too far, some said.

More than a dozen people out of about 100 who attended the meeting raised concerns. Some said they worry about fire and paramedic response times until a new fire station is built at the development, the possibly overcrowding of local schools and the development’s effects on wildlife.

For 17 years, the well at Tony Eiguren’s house on North Brookside Lane had supplied two gallons of water per minute for household use. In July, the volume dropped significantly. “We’re down to half a gallon every 10 minutes,” Eiguren told the commission.

dry creek ranch 1
A map from 2017 shows the initial layout of the Dry Creek Ranch planned community. The preliminary plat just recommended for approval is situated at the bottom left. Provided by Ada County

Eiguren, owner of Boise’s Basque Market, attributed the decrease to the construction of several homes across Highway 55 in Dry Creek Ranch that are served by a Dry Creek Ranch well.

Hethe Clark, a Boise lawyer who represents Boise Hunter Homes, said there was no evidence that the well has contributed to Eiguren’s water loss.

The housing development’s well is located 1.7 miles east of Eiguren’s property, Clark said. And the development uses less water than when the land was farmed.

“A number of factors could affect Mr. Eiguren’s well,” Clark said. “We don’t know the cause of that.”

The developer is required to monitor water output twice a year from 11 wells in the area. The readings have not shown a loss of supply, Clark said.

There were also concerns raised about treated wastewater going into Dry Creek. Clark said the water was safe and Dry Creek Ranch’s treatment system was approved by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Boise Hunter Homes’ plans for the third phase of its Dry Creek Ranch development off Highway 55 north of Boise include single-family homes and townhouses. Commercial space would be available north of Dry Creek Road, at the upper left, along with the townhouses, a clubhouse and athletic fields. Provided by Boise Hunter Homes

The Eagle Fire Department will determine when to build a new fire station at Dry Creek Ranch, Clark said. Until then, he said, adequate service will be provided by the department’s station on Floating Feather Road, 2.2 miles away.

More than a dozen people who testified, including home builders, subcontractors and Dry Creek Ranch homeowners, praised the development.

“The Dry Creek Ranch is turning into a development where my wife and I want to raise our children,” said Brent Frame, who bought a house there.

Chris Atkinson, co-owner of Atkinson’s Mirror and Glass, said the development had provided his company the opportunity to install large windows providing spectacular views of the Boise Foothills.

The development has been contentious for more than a decade. Another developer originally wanted to build 4,300 homes there and won approval in 2006, but the project never got started before the housing market crashed.

In late 2016, Boise Hunter Homes bought the land and asked to reduce the number of homes and the amount of commercial space. Last year, a citizens group, Save Dry Creek, sought to put the project up to a countywide vote but failed to obtain the needed 40,000 signatures.

Under earlier approval of the entire development, Boise Hunter Homes is required to comply with 70 conditions. “The concerns I had were addressed by the staff and the applicant,” Commissioner Brenda Blitman said at Thursday’s hearing.

The commission voted 4-0 to recommend approval of the preliminary plat. Chairman Charles Baun declared a conflict of interest because he had done work for the developer. He did not participate in the hearing.

Travis Hunter, co-owner of Boise Hunter Homes, said he was happy with the decision.

“I think the Planning and Zoning Commission did a good job,” Hunter said in an interview. “They checked to see that we vetted everything.”

Stephanie Rael, who opposed the application, said she was disappointed. She said there were enough concerns that the commission should have held off making a decision.

“I would have really wished the commissioners had tabled the issue,” said Rael, who said she would continue her fight when the plat comes before county commissioners.

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Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.