Boise Council Votes 4-1 to Approve St. Luke's Master Plan Calling For Jefferson Closure 

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The Boise City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to approve the controversial St. Luke's Master Plan, which includes the permanent closure of a section of Jefferson Street to make way for a massive expansion of the health care campus in East Boise.

Only Councilwoman Elaine Clegg voted against the motion, after her own amended motion was shot down by three of her colleagues. Among Clegg's stipulations was the requirement that St. Luke's sign an agreement reversing the Jefferson Street closure should the hospital ever leave its downtown location.

The vote came after nearly two hours of dialogue among council members and one week after a nearly eight-hour public hearing on the matter

Although he did not vote on the proposal, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter took what he called a "point of personal privilege" to remind the public that he has not always been a fan of St. Luke's previous moves— including what the mayor called the hospital's "aggressive approach" with the Idaho attorney general's office after state and federal courts ordered the hospital to divest itself of the Saltzer Medical Group. Bieter said the public squabble caused "significant disruption to the community."

Bieter added that St. Luke's management suffered some "major missteps" in its early public relations efforts on the hospital's proposed master plan and that St. Luke's was "somewhat dismissive of its neighbors."

Ultimately, Bieter said St. Luke's "backed up, took the time and effort to explain its different approaches" on the master plan.

Council President Maryanne Jordan made a motion to approve the plan, but with some additions, including regular public workshops on most of the elements of the development.

Perhaps most significantly, Jordan introduced the condition that a 28-foot-wide easement of Bannock Street be returned to the public. Bannock was closed in the 1990s during a previous St. Luke's remodel and, according to Jordan's condition, it could be reopened to pedestrians, bicyclists and, possibly, automobiles following a public hearing.

Jordan's motion was carried in the 4-1 vote.

Counciilwoman Lauren McLean voted in favor of the plan saying, "I don't do this lightly. I do this because it's the right thing for Boise—particularly when I think about where the city will be, or should be, or can be, 30 years from now."

In regards to the future, McLean turned to St. Luke's officials in the audience and said, "We expect you to support us when it's time to develop a streetcar system in the future, particularly an east-west route. I see St. Luke's as part of downtown. Much like citizens will see the new parks on the west side of the city as part of a new downtown."

Councilman Scot Ludwig offered some advice to St. Luke's Chief Operating Officer Chris Roth, suggesting the hospital manager keep in mind using local contractors; increasing incentives for St. Luke's employees to commute via bicycle; and improving relations with its largest neighbor, Boise State University.

The Ada County Highway District will have the final say on the closure of Jefferson Street. ACHD commissioners had indicated that they first wanted to see the fate of the master plan before the Boise City Council. After Tuesday night's vote, ACHD is expected to take up the proposed closure sooner than later.
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