Guest Opinions

Guest Opinion: Harris Ranch North shows Boise’s soul for sale

Most of us transplants to Boise moved here to escape “the big city.” We moved here for the small-town values, the gracious people, the slower pace of life and the beautiful vistas. Many of us hoped that the big-city grind would not catch up with us in this tranquil corner of the West.

Unfortunately, the big-city grind is here, in the form of aggressive developers who want to see portions of our beautiful Foothills graded and landscaped into luxury communities. Those of us who live in the valley have slowly watched as the Foothills became dotted with houses. Thankfully, much of the Foothills surrounding the city have been protected with careful management policies. Some critical areas are still vulnerable, though.

Most of us agree that we don’t want Boise to look like Orange County, Calif., where mansions are stacked one on top of another all the way to the hilltops. The Foothills are the soul of this city, a defining feature of our identity, and a critical habitat for plants and wildlife. In an ideal world they would not have a price tag, because they are fundamentally priceless.

The latest assault is a planned development east of Downtown Boise called Harris Ranch North. It’s slated to go in behind the Spring Creek subdivision of Harris Ranch. This area is not protected under the Foothills Planning Area blueprint. Last winter, ugly scars appeared on the hills behind Harris Ranch. An unspoiled area abutting the Boise River WMA was invaded by truck tracks and dotted with flags. The construction noise, light pollution, traffic and erosion are not far behind. The project has been blazing through the approval process, with residents of the neighborhood below blissfully unaware of what’s coming. We’re told we should be happy, though. After all, as many as 370 homes were originally contemplated, and the land owners and developers graciously negotiated and reduced it to only 173.

I am not happy about it, though. And neither should you be. I am not going to be placated by the flashy and misleading presentations by developers with big money and the reassurances that those getting rich off the deal have done us all a favor by downsizing. Make no mistake about it, the Harris Ranch North development would still be an eyesore. It would have a negative impact on the ecology of the area and on the residents living below it. Those of you across the valley on the Bench, you would be able to see it, too. And more globally, this project is a worrisome indication that despite some protections, our beloved Foothills are still vulnerable. This development is inconsistent with the greater community vision of preservation. We need to do some soul searching before it’s too late.

We are not completely helpless. Please get out there and vote in favor of bonds to purchase open space, support organizations like the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, and educate yourself regarding new planned developments. And it is not too late to voice your opposition to Harris Ranch North. The development has not received final approval. Take action, call or write the City Council and voice your concerns.

Lindsay Dressler lives in Boise in the Spring Creek area of Harris Ranch.