UPDATE: Thursday, Aug. 6
The second, and ultimately decisive, Ada County Highway District commission meeting discussing the new Highlands Cove Subdivision development between 15th Street and Braemere Road was no less tense than the commission's first session on June 24.
Again, more than 100 people packed into an ACHD meeting room on the evening of Aug. 5 to listen to commissioners mull whether or not to approve the development application, which would allow 60 houses to be built at the edge of Crane Creek Golf Course.
Though public testimony was closed, attendees were far from silent. Several times throughout the two-hour-long meeting, commissioners told the crowd to quiet down. That said, attendees regularly scoffed, bickered and audibly sighed throughout the proceedings.
An ACHD staffer opened Wednesday night's discussion by presenting several traffic safety improvement options for the streets around the Highlands. Short-term options, he said, included items like restricting street parking on low visibility areas, installing speed humps, improving school bus stops, installing radar speed signs, restricting cut-through traffic, installing a four-way stop at Curling Drive and Braemere Road, and creating a pedestrian crossing signal at Highlands Elementary. The price tags for the options ranged from less than $1,000 all the way up to $45,000.
Then the presentation moved on to long-term options to make the roads of the Highlands neighborhoods safer. Those options included installing bike and pedestrian shoulders for $4,000, installing street lights for $125,000 or installing a sidewalk on Braemere Road for $600,000.
The ACHD staffer pointed to a $20,000 commitment from developers for traffic-calming measures. But that triggered a scoff from the public, who saw price tags like $600,000 but said they felt that $20,000 was a drop in the bucket.
An ACHD attorney then took to the podium to talk about the legal aspects of the decision before ACHD commissioners. He said should they continue to delay a decision, they could be sued by the developer. He said there was no way to measure how safety issues from the development could arise. No traffic study needs to be done since the development proposes less than 100 houses. That triggered another grumble from the attendees.
Lastly, an ACHD planner recommended to the commissioners that they approve the application. That triggered the final discussion before ACHD commissioners cast their votes.
Commissioner Kent Goldthorpe started off with a motion to approve the application, but not without a weak apology to the visibly upset residents before him.
But Commissioner Paul Woods took a starkly different approach, one where he called out the rest of his commissioners for simply telling people to go to the city with their concerns because there's nothing ACHD can do about it.
"It's crap," Woods said into his microphone. The crowd broke into applause.
"I'm not trying to get applause here," he said. "I'm trying to get to a solution. I understand people's frustrations. We're not going to do anything on Harrison other than just continue to stuff more cars on it. The North End has struggled with this for a long time. It's not the applicant's problem, but it's a problem that we need to address.
"I think people here are frustrated," he continued. "I'm frustrated with it and frustrated about how we get this thing fixed, because we're sitting here saying, 'It's a safety problem, and we're going to add more cars to what we know is a safety problem with pedestrians.' None of us want to say we know it's a problem and we're going to add some more opportunities for something to go wrong."
Commissioner Rebecca Arnold was taken aback by Woods's remarks.
"I understand the frustration and I understand the safety concerns on Highlandview and Braemere," she said. "Those issues are preexisting and they are separate and apart from this development."
When a collective laugh erupted from attendees, Arnold said, "Please don't interrupt. It's rude and not productive to the process. The developer has some vested rights here and we can't just take those away. While I personally would like to see a different approach in the foothills—I'd like to see lower densities and more open space—the oath of office that I took requires me to put aside those personal views and follow the law. And following the law means I have to approve this development because it meets the law and it meets our policies."
Ultimately, each of the ACHD commissioners except for Woods voted in favor of the development.
ACHD Commission President Jim Hansen emphasized again how ACHD must work in the "box" of the law, and urged everyone at the meeting to take their concerns to the city of Boise's Planning and Zoning commission meeting
on Monday, Sept. 14.
ORIGINAL STORY: Wednesday, Aug. 5
The Ada County Highway District Commission meeting on June 24 stretched to nearly four and a half hours, with nearly half of its 100 attendees weighing in on a new subdivision proposal near the Boise Foothills.
The development would include building 60 new houses on a stretch of land between the end of 15th Street and Braemere Road in the Boise Highlands. The houses would sit along the edge of the Crane Creek Golf Course.
According to ACHD Public Information Officer Craig Quintana, adding that many houses also means adding nearly 600 more trips per day through the streets of the Highlands, primarily Braemere Road and 15th Street.
"The vast majority of people spoke against it," Quintana said.
One particularly passionate voice against the Highlands Cove Subdivision is Krista Lyons. She has lived in the neighborhood since 1993 and most days, she walks her yellow Labrador, Clyde, through an area where the proposed development would be built.
Lyons pointed out that 15th and Braemere are steep roads with blind corners and driveways. More importantly, they are teeming with children and bicyclists.
"These roads were not built to have this kind of traffic," Lyons said. "I love this area. I would hate to lose it and so would a lot of other people. This is the central foothills; it's the backdrop to the city."
The development would also relocate a portion of a dirt road, unofficially known as an extension of Eighth Street, to accommodate three houses. If the homes are built, the road would have to be moved closer to Hulls Gulch.
When public testimony at the June 24 meeting finally ended after 10:30 p.m., ACHD commissioners directed staff to look into some of the traffic concerns raised by residents.
ACHD staff are expected to present their recommendations to the commissioners at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 5.
"We closed public testimony at the first hearing, but people are still going to want to talk again. The last one was pretty intense," Quintana said. "We don't have a rooting interest here, honestly. We don't care if it goes in or not. We just have to deal with the aftereffects."