UPDATE: There Goes the Neighborhood

Boise State University Master Plan didn't include some of its oldest neighbors


UPDATE: Jan. 7, 2015

In the wake of significant pushback from some of its oldest neighbors, who insist Boise State University's long-term plans don't include them, school officials have now told the city of Boise it's "important to us that our neighbors and constituencies are heard in the approval process. We also recognize that the long-range portion of the plan is a conceptual view and, as such, is a living document."

As a result, officials said they want to focus on what they call "essential near-term issues" while continuing an "ongoing engagement with constituents and stakeholders regarding longer-range concepts."

In particular, the university now says it will scale back a request to rezone dozens of parcels of Boise State-owned land in the neighborhood from a "R" (residential) to a "U" (university) status. Additionally, the university is asking the Boise City Council to focus on Boise State's 10-year wish-list "with the understanding the longer-range plan will serve as a framework for continued community discussion and planning activities."

Perhaps most important, the university said it would relaunch "an outreach program that will include opportunities for our neighbors and the general public to connect with us on any issues that are of interest regarding the campus operation or plan."

One of those neighbors, Karen Glennon, who spoke to Boise Weekly about their concerns for the Master Plan, wasn't overly optimistic about the future. Nonetheless, she was grateful for their plight coming into the public eye.

"We will not win, but perhaps there will be some sort of ease because of the publicity for my elderly neighbors," Glennon wrote to BW. "Thank you for the help."

ORIGINAL STORY: Jan. 6, 2015

Karen Glennon leaned in and squinted, trying in vain to find her home on a map inside Boise State University's 104-page master plan.

"It's not there," she said.

When Boise Weekly asked her neighbors, all of whom live within a few blocks of the university, to point out their homes, they had similar responses.

"They're gone. Our houses are gone," whispered Christine Gleason, lifting her head from the map in resignation.

After speaking to nearly a dozen neighbors, all said they love living near Boise State (south of University Drive and north of Boise Avenue), but they're heartbroken that university's plans for the future don't include them.

"Look, I love Boise State," said Deborah Graham, wearing an orange-and-blue Boise State sweatshirt. "But I also want them to live up to their values of being a good neighbor."

In 2005, Boise State drafted a master plan that promised to be a "good neighbor" while looking for an "appropriate transition of land use, scale and density between the campus and South Boise neighborhoods." A decade later, an updated master plan details a 20 percent growth, defined in large, by a land grab through those same neighborhoods.

"At first they said the expansion wouldn't hit us for at least 20 years," said Glennon. "But now, they're cutting it closer, and they're throwing everybody into a panic."

Glennon said the panic "hit her like a brick" during a meeting in August 2015, when an architect hired by Boise State showed neighbors an updated draft of the master plan.

"They hadn't even labeled where our streets had been. That really ticked me off," she said. "I told the architect, 'Find our streets. Find Potter Drive. Find Joyce. Find Belmont Street.'"

Gil Hofert has lived on Belmont Street for more than 30 years.

"My street was gone from the map," he said.

Merlin and Rita Marlatt live on Belmont too.

"That map puts a parking lot where we currently live," said Rita.

The Boise State Master Plan is big in scope, size and implication. In the introduction, Its authors concede Boise State's "overall campus density is not high" but insist the "campus core is largely built-out," and existing academic buildings are "inadequate for current uses or are in poor condition." Anyone paying even casual attention to Boise State already knows the university has already upgraded its administration building and built a new athletic practice field in the southeast corner of campus. Plans for the immediate future include a new fine arts building on Capitol Boulevard, a residence hall for honors students and a new alumni center. If Boise State planners get their way, over the next 10 years they'll build two new academic buildings on the west end of campus and a new science building between the Albertsons Library and Student Union. In the next 10-20 years, they hope to introduce "student housing villages" south of the main campus, an additional performing arts center in its northwest corner and an "Olympic sports center" and Natatorium in the southeast corner of campus.

The proposed plan initially landed on the shoulders of the city of Boise Planning and Zoning Commission but in mid-December, P&Z Commissioner Steve Miller balked at the document, saying it was the first time he was hearing about many of the proposals.

"It just puts us in a very awkward position," said Miller at the Dec. 14, 2015 P&Z hearing.

Miller and his fellow P&Z commissioners focused many of their concerns on Boise State's proposal to close off University Drive to motorists, turning the thoroughfare into a pedestrian and bicyclist mall. Their ultimate plan is to divert traffic rom University, presumably south to Boise Avenue. That's where Boise P&Z commissioners said the Ada County Highway District needed to weigh in on the matter. At a January 4 P&Z meeting, the first of the new year, commissioners ultimately agreed to recommend approval of Boise State's master plan. But the P&Z "yes" vote came with a caveat: commissioners strongly recommended a traffic analysis of the impact of the probable closure of University Drive. Meanwhile, ACHD representatives stated they couldn't yet recommend approval of the plan, reminding the university it "should submit a detailed written request to ACHD," detailing the proposed closure of University.

Merlin Marlatt said Boise State's footprint has increased significantly over the years, primarily through its purchase of neighborhood homes.

"But what they did was let those properties deteriorate, driving down the value of the nearby homes," he added.

Gleason, who has lived in the University neighborhood since 1979 said Boise State then had the gall to exploit that deterioration to its own advantage.

"What happens is that they go to the city of Boise and ask for approval for one of their projects, telling the city what an eyesore the property has become," said Gleason. "But what they never say is that they're the ones who own the property and that they were the ones to make it look bad."

The University neighborhood residents admit they're "up against a wall" and Boise State is a formidable opponent when it comes to the master plan. Neighbors' last-ditch hope for a sympathetic ear might come when the issue comes before the Boise City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

"I wish I could give you some elaborate answer to our dilemma," said Glennon. "But it's rather simple: We just don't want to move."