July 19, 2021
The Honorable Lauren McLean
Boise City Hall
150 N Capitol Blvd
Boise, ID 83702
Dear Mayor McLean:
You and I have something in common: we were both awarded the Max Dalton Open Government Award. I was the inaugural winner in 1999 and you, along with Justin Hayes, accepted the award on behalf of the Idaho Conservation League in 2004.
I am writing to express my dismay at the city’s change in direction regarding the Murgoitio Park property. How does taking 160 acres of open space, long designated to become a regional park, and allowing thousands of houses to be built on it, comport with your prior work with the Idaho Conservation League?
According to the ICL website, “ICL works hard to keep Idaho’s public lands in public hands. We participate in collaborative projects across the state to help develop and implement policies that help restore and sustain the natural resources of Idaho’s public lands while laying the groundwork for permanent protective designations. Our focus is protecting public lands for future generations and the native plants, fish, and wildlife that depend on them.”
In fact, on your “Lauren McLean for Boise Mayor” website, in large print you state: “I’m no stranger to defending our quality of life, open spaces, and future promise.”
Lauren, what about promises? What about the promises that were made to thousands of Southwest Community residents for a publicly owned 160-acre regional park? Although those promises predated your time as Boise’s mayor, they have been backed by millions of dollars of parks impact fees that have been collected by Boise City – both within Boise’s city limits, as well as outside those city limits but within Boise City’s Area of City Impact.
In addition to breaking past promises made by elected city officials, in trading the public Murgoitio Park property to a private developer, the city will also likely face protracted legal challenges on behalf of the area’s residents. These challenges will cost both sides, including Boise City taxpayers, a vast amount of money that could be put to better use developing the park property. When the city loses, it could cost the city millions more to refund the impact fees that were collected and have not been spent in the manner required by law.
Please note, Idaho Code 67-8204 (11) states, “A development impact fee ordinance shall provide that development impact fees shall only be spent for the category of system improvements for which the fees were collected and either within or for the benefit of the service area in which the project is located.”
Spending parks impact fees collected in the Southwest Community on parks in downtown Boise, some six, seven, eight, nine or more miles away, meets neither the letter nor the intent of this section of law.
To its credit, the city has developed Molenaar Park, which provides a nice bit of green space in the Southwest Community, but I would venture to guess that this park’s primary function is to provide overflow parking for Maple Grove Elementary School, located across the street.
Claims have been made that the houses in the proposed project area will be sold at or below Boise City’s and Ada County’s median prices. Do you know those numbers are in the half-a-million-dollar range already? How, exactly, will thousands of costly new homes solve our area’s affordable housing crisis?
Adding thousands MORE homes in the Southwest Community priced over $400,000 each, in addition to the thousands of houses that have already been approved there that are yet to be built, will do little or nothing to resolve our county’s need for more affordable housing. What it will do is create challenges for the school district, and clog already overcrowded southwest area roads.
I implore you and members of the Boise City Council to remember your commitment to public service, to parks and open space, and to the taxpayers of Boise City in your fiduciary role as the stewards of public funds.
Please find another way to obtain the land needed to connect the Boise River Wildlife Management Area to Table Rock, without causing irreparable harm to Southwest Community residents in the process.
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this request.
Sharon M. Ullman (sent electronically)
Sharon M. Ullman
2042 E Deerhill Drive
Meridian, ID 83642
cc: Boise City Council
Friends of Murgoitio Park
Lee Halper (2001 Max Dalton Open Government Award Winner)
Betsy Russell (2010 Max Dalton Open Government Award Winner)