Guest Opinions

Comprehensive planning in city of Boise needs to be done right

What is comprehensive planning? It is a tool for the city to ensure the prosperity of community for many years to come.

There have been three comprehensive developments in Boise: Harris Ranch, Barber Valley and now Syringa Valley — a proposed development west of the Boise Airport.

At the early stage, much data on infrastructure, resources, demographics and economics is collected and analyzed. The city then sets written policy for the area to be developed. Then the developer creates a physical plan according to the city’s guidelines.

In the case of Syringa Valley, the process was reversed. The developer presented to Boise City Council a final comprehensive plan, which citizens questioned as insufficient.

Then the City Council conducted several working sessions to collect the data. While I observed them asking questions and getting answers, I also observed that critical questions were not raised. As a member of the public, I can’t participate in their process until the final public hearing.

I noted these examples of giving power from the people to the developer:

▪ Only Boise city employees and consultants hired by developers participated in working meetings. Public comments during final hearing will be limited to three minutes.

▪ There is no one official responsible for evaluating impact of noise on children in schools near the airport — it was just between Boise School District and the developer to negotiate which parcel to acquire for the schools.

▪ The School District is applying for 1,000-gallons-per-minute groundwater appropriation in Syringa Valley, which will impact nearby individual wells — not including communities actually affected by Syringa Valley in city of Boise impact boundary. Who is developing mitigation mechanisms for the affected communities?

▪ ACHD’s initial roads plan favored developers’ interest over local residents. Then, there was the news about the possibility of F-35 aircraft destined for South Boise in the future.

Syringa Valley land used to be zoned as an airport conservation area. It was annexed into the city of Boise in 2006, with then-Gov. James Risch and present Boise Mayor Dave Bieter in office.

Now the city of Boise wants “medium density” residential housing in Syringa Valley near the airport, while Bieter and Sen. Risch have been lobbying to bring a new air combat mission to Gowen Field. The issue is not only the average “DNL” airport noise to which our community and schools will be exposed, and depressed real estate values. Some of these fast jets project to the ground peak noises in excess of average human pain threshold of 110 db. Therefore placing F-15 and/or F-35 aircraft near residential areas creates public health consequences.

What are other long-term options to create prosperity in our community, if not new military air combat missions and the federal funds they bring?

People prefer to move into areas with great schools. Boise should lobby Idaho lawmakers (instead of the Air Force secretary) to provide more funding for schools in South Boise. Long term, it would improve home values, academic achievement and employment prospects for the residents.

Comprehensive planning is not a tool for developers to maximize their profit; not a document that allows city and county agencies to budget their permit fees for decades.

Comprehensive planning is a power the city should not completely give away to private interests.

Inna Patrick is an engineer and technologist. She is most interested in roads, traffic and public schools in South Boise.