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Mystery solved: Murgoitio developer and Foothills land-swap location revealed

·3 min read
Paula Triplett looks out from her South Boise home’s balcony overlooking the New York Canal and a 160-acre parcel of land that the City of Boise has long planned to develop into Murgoitio Park. The plan changed with land swap deal that would trade most of the parcel with a developer for land in the Boise Foothills. Instead of a park with trees and pathways, Triplett says she will likely be looking at a sea of dense housing.

The developers of Harris Ranch have been revealed as the developers interested in a Southwest land parcel owned by the city of Boise that has long been planned as a future regional park.

Harris Ranch Limited Partnership and Barber Valley Development Inc. say they want to build affordable housing on the Murgoitio parcel. In exchange for the property, they may offer more than 250 acres of land on either side of the Idaho Power Corridor north of Barber Road owned by Harris Ranch Limited Partnership.

That description suggests that the deal might give Foothills recreationists something they’ve long wanted: a trail linking the Boise River Wildlife Management Area to Table Rock. The wildlife area covers 36,000 acres north and east of Harris Ranch and includes the popular Homestead Trail, which could connect to a new trail to Table Rock. Table Rock is northwest of the development.

Neighbors of the Murgoitio parcel, though, want the promised park built, not a subdivision.

The Boise Parks and Recreation Department told the Statesman last week that a developer had approached the City Council with a proposed land swap deal that would exchange land owned by the developer in the Foothills for the Murgoitio parcel.

“The plot of land in Southwest Boise has sat dormant for more than a quarter century,” said Doug Fowler, president of Barber Valley Development Inc., said Tuesday in a news release. “We hope to help turn it into a project that elevates the entire community, and we look forward to input from the surrounding neighborhood. Further, the opportunity to place a substantial piece of Boise’s iconic Foothills into the care of the city of Boise ensures the Foothills will continue to benefit all Boise residents for years to come.”

Fowler has led development of the Harris family’s former ranch in the Barber Valley over most of the past two decades.

Until Tuesday, the city would not reveal the name of the developer, something many Southwest-area residents found frustrating. Alexandria Danilovich, co-founder of the newly formed Friends of Murgoitio Park, said “the lack of transparency was really appalling.”

Harris Ranch Limited Partnership and Barber Valley Development Inc. said the new homes would be priced below median Boise and Ada County market rates.

The Murgoitio (pronounced Mer-GERT-ee-o) parcel is 160 acres stretching a mile between South Cole and South Maple Grove roads just north of the New York Canal. Though owned by the city, it lies just outside city limits. The city has planned to build a large regional park there since 1997.

As part of the deal, seven acres of the Murgoitio parcel would still become a small park, which Harris Ranch Limited Partnership would pay for and then give back to the city.

“The seven-acre park is expected to feature soccer fields, bocce courts, family gathering space, and more and be completed within two years of closing the transaction,” the news release said.

In anticipation of the land swap, Boise has begun taking steps to annex the land into the city. It notified residents within 500 feet of the pending annexation and held an informational meeting online last Thursday. More than 400 people attended.

“If discussions progress, Harris Ranch Limited Partnership and Barber Valley Development Inc., the developer of Harris Ranch, will be committed to engaging with the community to ensure the southwest Boise development and park provide maximum value to the area,” the news release said.

Sally Krutzig covers Treasure Valley growth and development. Have a story suggestion or a question? Email Krutzig at skrutzig@idahostatesman.com.

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