City of Boise, advocacy group work for open space protection with new approach

Boise to dedicate new Molenaar Park
Posted at 3:26 AM, Mar 29, 2022

BOISE, Idaho — The debate between protecting open space and building more housing has been going on for months, even years in the Treasure Valley.

Over the summer, a parcel of land on South Cole Road, once designated to be developed into a park, was the center of this debate in Boise.

Now, both the City of Boise and a group of open space advocates are working to protect open spaces — but they’re going about it in different ways.

The City of Boise is working to protect open space by placing deed restrictions on all park property or open space within city limits and owned by the city.

"What we will be setting up future councils with is really a plan that all of the park properties have specific intended use restrictions on them and it makes it easy to manage in the future," Director of the Boise Parks and Recreation department Doug Holloway said.

The City can't tell future City Council members what to do, but they can make it more difficult to rezone or change the intended use of this land. Under a deed restriction, if any land is used for something other than its intended purpose, ownership would revert back to whoever sold or donated the land in the first place.

The City of Boise is now in the process of drafting these deed restrictions for all park and open space properties, within Boise City Limits and owned by the city. In the future, any land annexed into the City of Boise would come with a deed restriction.

Some City Council members have expressed concern about tying the hands of future City Councils.

"There could be an extreme fiscal disaster in the City of Boise and Council, the City Council at that time may need to generate cash in order to keep the city afloat," Holloway said.

A group of open space advocates, the Boise Parks Association, say this doesn't go far enough to protect Boise parks and open space, so they've submitted a ballot initiative.

"The ballot initiative will require a public vote before the city can sell off or change the land use of parks and permanent open space," said Estee Lafrenz, director of the Boise Parks Association.

Holloway said the City's lawyers are still evaluating whether this is a legal option under state law.

The Boise Parks Alliance is expecting to start collecting signatures for their ballot initiative later this spring and hoping to get the initiative on the ballot in 2023.