Boise City Council Approves New Foothills Levy for November Ballot 

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On November 3, the citizens of Boise will have the chance to vote on a new $10 million levy for foothills and Boise River conservation

At the June 9 evening meeting, Boise City Council voted unanimously to include the conservation levy on this November's ballot.

It will take the form of a temporary, two-year override levy which will raise $5 million each year through an estimated monthly impact of $2.39 per $100,000 on taxable value of residential property owners.

In a rare move, Councilwoman Lauren McLean even called into the meeting to cast her vote. Despite being out of town, she said she did not want to miss voicing her support. Long before she became a public servant, McLean helped spearhead the 2001 Foothills levy.

"The foothills are quintessential Boise," she said in a statement provided to Boise Weekly. "Each of us can look up and see them everyday, being reminded just how good we have it here. They're where I go to exercise, to reflect on my life, to play. They're the place Scott [her husband] and I take our kids for family time, where we've found baby owls with them, taught them to mountain bike, and spent countless hours walking and exploring. Now they're the place our children go on their own —to mountain bike, to walk with friends, to look for fours—to explore and gain their independence. ... vote YES for Open Spaces this November."

This new levy expands beyond the foothills and includes the Boise River. Priorities include increasing access to the Boise River and promoting natural stream corridors from the foothills to the river, protecting clean water and drinking water, wildlife habitat around the foothills and the river, and native plants in both areas.

Earlier in Tuesday afternoon, Boise Parks and Recreation director Doug Holloway presented the new levy to the council, beginning by highlighting the successes of the first foothills levy. The original goal for the levy, which gave the city $10 million to acquire and maintain foothills land, was to obtain land around Table Rock, Hulls Gulch and Dry Creek.

"We ended up with about 20 different areas," Holloway said.

Now, the city owns 10,807 acres of protected land including Hillside to Hollow, some land above Military Reserve, and North Collister near Polecat Gulch, as well as the donation of Noble Reserve and Stack Rock, and several easements including Daniels Creek and Upper Dry Creek. 

The 2001 levy only has $1.6 million left, and because of a handful of pending property sales, city officials don't want to see the funds run out. 

At the city council work session, Holloway put forth his proposal with the help of Mayor Dave Bieter's Chief of Staff, Jade Riley, to ask voters for a new $10 million levy this November. 

"As we finished up the Open Space Reserve Plan, we received lots of feedback from the public, and through the public engagement process, three themes came through loud and clear," Holloway said. "[Foothill users] want to acquire and maintain land, improve access to that land, and provide connectivity to properties the city owns."

The new levy doesn't allow the money to be used for standards maintenance and operation or administrative costs. A similar bond for open space came up in the 2013 and received 62 percent of the vote, but because bonds needs 66 percent, the measure failed. A levy, however, only takes half the vote to pass.

Learn more about the successes, as well as the challenges facing the foothills with this week's Citizen interview, featuring Land Trust of the Treasure Valley executive director Tim Breuer.
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