Idaho Coalition for Sustainable Communities

Idaho coalition
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The mission of the Idaho Coalition for Sustainable Communities is to ensure that Idaho develops in a manner consistent with the traditional needs and values of existing communities.

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Read what happened in Blaine County and WHY

What led to the creation of IDCSC?

Planned community developers have discovered Idaho's Treasure Valley. Right now, we have two p/c's in existence: Harris Ranch in Boise, and Hidden Springs in Ada County. An Idaho Statesman article dated October 11, 2006 told of an additional 24 planned community applications in some stage of development in Ada County.

- These communities will absorb a total of over 60,000 acres

- Many of the developments have not yet determined the number of homes they will build. The Director of Ada County Development Services (ACDS) issued a directive for a minimum of 8 homes per net acre in planned communities. His formula is:

Gross acreage - (open space + developed parks) = Net acreage
Net acreage x 8 units = minimum number of dwelling units

(Per Ada Co. Code, a minimum of 10% of the land must be open space and a minimum of 10 acres of developed park per 1000 population.)

What does this mean for a sustainable community?

1. Traffic

Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is responsible for state highways--55, 21, 16, 44, and 84. They cannot accept "impact fees" from developers to improve highways that need expansion because of new developments.

The Ada County Highway District (ACHD) must maintain all city and county roadways. They can accept "impact fees."

The Problem: Since planned community inhabitants will be as likely as anyone else to use roadways throughout the state and county, just how far do those impact fees and roadway upgrades need to go? See Traffic for a more complete discussion.

2. Home Prices and Sales

Ada County saw phenomenal growth and home price escalation from 2000-2006. It was one of the top five fastest growing parts of the county in several of those years. Developers saw what was happening here, and began to buy up large tracts of land for planned communities to house all those new residents.

The Problem: There are several:

a. How long can that level of growth continue? There are extreme differences between the population explosion figures used by developers in their economic analyses of the future of the Treasure Valley, and those used by COMPASS , a consortium of local government bodies created for long term regional planning. If COMPASS, rather than the developers, is correct, we could potentially end up with a series of half-built planned communities. What happens to all the promises made if that occurs?

b. What will be the effect of prices on existing homes? A glut of new homes always curtails the value of existing homes. This will curtail the equity for existing homeowners, which may affect mortgage rates or equity loan availability, and will make it difficult for current residents to sell their homes. Lack of increase in home prices means that:

- new homes will not sell for as high a price as projected by developers
- current home values will not rise as projected by local governments

and this will result in governments not collecting property tax revenues as "projected" in order to pay for the added infrastructure costs the new developments create. Who will pay for these infrastructure costs? It seems the only way out will be an increase in property tax rates for all of us.

c. What happens if planned community developers do not adhere to promises they make during application process? Apparently, little to nothing--the Ada County Code says that a review will be conducted after two years, and if problems are found a public hearing will be held. That's it. (Here's the 2004 periodic review of Hidden Springs , Ada County's only existing planned community,)

d. See Planned Community List for more information.

3. Water

The Treasure Valley might have the Boise River running through it, and the Snake River not far to the south, but geologically, it is a desert. Our natural environment is not lawns and rose gardens and deciduous trees--its sage brush. There is a limited amount of water in the area. Unfortunately, the aquifers in the foothills have not been well studied to date, since they were only being tapped for a relatively small amount of agricultural use.

The problem : The Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) will need quite a bit of funding to correctly determine the amount of available water. They don't have it. Developers are paying consultants to do studies. As Idaho looks to our neighbors to the south...Nevada, Arizona, Colorado...and the problems they are having we water, we can only assume that they didn't allow building "knowing" that there wasn't enough water to support their new residents. We should learn from their mistakes, and independently confirm that sufficient water exists to support communities BEFORE they are built, not try to fix a bad situation afterward.

© idcsc 2008