The Boise City Planning and Zoning Commission delayed a decision Monday, April 12, on the proposed Blueprint Boise comprehensive plan and its potential effects after residents from one neighborhood raised questions about higher density zoning in the plan.
The roughly 20 people there who shared their thoughts fell into two basic camps: members of Preservation Idaho, who want the city's new zoning map to include more archeological and historical data for future planning, and residents of the Depot Bench neighborhood, concerned about increased density in their neighborhood.
Bench resident John Gannon said he opposed the idea of one-size-fits-all density being imposed on the city, that suburban areas should remain suburban rather than being subdivided, especially with the lack of community open spaces since the closure of Franklin School.
"Smaller parcels will lead to less trees and less wildlife," said Gannon. "If you're going to drastically change our neighborhood like that, you need to provide some open space." He pointed out that what open space does exist in the neighborhood is predominantly private.
Gannon also expressed frustration with the expected increase in traffic along Orchard Street that would come with the plan. Orchard lacks sidewalks and center turn lanes, as well as plans to build them.
Several other Bench residents echoed Gannon's concerns about density and open space, even offering an alternate plan authored by their neighborhood association.
Sarah Cunningham requested that the plan redistrict the former Franklin Elementary School as parkland, despite the commission stating that it was owned by the school district and outside of their jurisdiction to do so.
One commissioner asked why these concerns had not been brought to the city earlier, and Gannon responded that he hadn't been aware of any major changes planned for the neighborhood.
A work session was scheduled for Monday, April 19, so the commission could review Blueprint Boise in more depth to see if it already responds to the concerns raised, or if it needs further tweaking to do so.
City planner Tricia Nilsson feels confident in the plan.
"It's a fairly dense document," says Nilsson. "I don't mean to be defensive, but I think we probably have any concerns covered on page so and so. It's easy not to see the words and just focus on the map."
And Nilsson says the plan was crafted to be about much more than just the map.
"The goal of this process is that we should all have the same future picture. If they're not synced up, now's the time to do it," says Nilsson. "But if it's just these few issues we have I think we're pretty close."
After the work session April 19, the commission will hear further testimony and potentially vote on any revisions on May 10, making recommendations on the plan to the Boise City Council. Both sessions are open to the public.