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City Legal: Ouch


The City of Boise's legal department hasn't exactly brought home a winning record lately. Last week they lost in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals over the homeless shelter Community House. The California-based court ruled Thursday that the shelter--managed by Boise Rescue Mision but owned by the city--violated the Fair Housing Act when it made rules that keep women and children out of the shelter. They took a step further and said the shelter's provision of religious services go against the U.S. Constitution's language regarding freedom of religion.

The religious services are there because the shelter is managed by the Boise Rescue Mission Ministries, which took over operation in 2005, about a year after the city took the shelter over from the nonprofit Community House, Inc.

City officials were still poring over the 41-page ruling, said Michael Zuzel, spokesman for Mayor Dave Bieter, and therefore weren't ready to comment. But because the ruling was a remanding of the case back to District Court, the city will ultimately be waiting for a ruling from that body.

That ruling came about the same time the city lost its case in District Court over the controversial Avimor development northwest of Boise off of Highway 55. The city had argued that Ada County's approval of the development wasn't legal. The development will create more traffic and more strain on local services when it becomes occupied by hundreds of families. In their dismissal of the appeal, the court ruled that the city had no standing in the matter.

"We continue to believe that a massive residential development that has little or no prospect of job creation or trip capture will have serious impacts on the City of Boise," Zuzel said. "We believed that gave us standing."

With little recourse in the legal arena, however, Zuzel said the city would instead pour its resources into the Blueprint For Good Growth planning process, a multi-agency effort now under way.