Dozens of Eagle, Avimor residents testify at hearing. Here’s what happened 6 hours later
The Eagle City Council heard six hours of testimony Monday night ahead of a decision that could nearly double Eagle’s population.
Avimor, the 8,761-home planned community in the Eagle Foothills that spans over 27 square miles, has had its eye on being annexed by Eagle for years. But its developers and the public will have to wait a little longer for a decision.
Mayor Jason Pierce cut off the public hearing just after midnight. Most of the testimony came from people opposed to annexation, but many residents of Avimor and some residents of Eagle supported the application. The crowd of around 250 people was dispersed between Council Chambers, the community hall and two conference rooms.
Avimor’s request would add 22,500 new residents to its city limits, which is about the population of Kuna. Avimor’s application also includes 860,000 square feet, or nearly 20 acres, of commercial and retail buildings; and 25 miles of hiking trails.
Residents worry about financial risk
Most people who opposed the annexation told the council that they worried about the financial risk that Eagle would take on if it decided to add services to the Foothills community.
Jay Comb, an Eagle resident, said he was concerned that Eagle and Avimor were using financial analyses that are two years old.
“All financial variables have changed dramatically since then,” Comb said. “Inflation is at a 40-year high, interest rates are being increased significantly. Local prices are much higher than those used in the financial models.”
Comb wants the city and Avimor to conduct a more up-to-date analysis of the financial burden and incentives annexation could bring to Eagle.
“I think it’s crazy to go ahead and do things without having better and more up-to-date information,” he said.
Russ Buschert, a 38-year Eagle resident, said he liked the development concept of Avimor, but the financial situation concerned him.
“(Avimor) is going to leave an impossible gap,” Buschert said. “When we talk about the fees that will be collected from the more in the early parts of annexation, it will be pretty much impossible to recover them (at full build-out).”
Many residents who opposed annexation accused the mayor and council of bias toward Avimor. Each council member said at the start of the meeting that they received emails and personal inquiries about Avimor but had not engaged with them and did not believe the communications inhibited them from being impartial.
Councilman Charlie Baun received criticism from people opposed to annexation because of his previous work and residence in Avimor. He explained in the meeting that he was Avimor’s conservation director from 2006 to 2019. He and his family also lived in Avimor from 2009 to 2015, he said. Once he took his council position, he said, he “severed all contacts” with Avimor.
The McLeod family, which owns Avimor and nearly 40,000 acres in the Eagle Foothills, donated to Pierce’s mayoral campaign in 2019 mayoral election, when he defeated incumbent Stan Ridgeway.
Proponents praise open space, seek controlled growth
Avimor was approved in the early 2000s by the Ada County Commission as a planned community. But in 2016, the county tightened restrictions around planned communities so that urban development would be allowed only within city limits. The county allows far sparser development than Avimor’s owners want.
The development hopes to grow to over the next 30 years. Dan Richter, general manager of Avimor, previously told the Idaho Statesman that with Avimor spanning over three counties — Boise, Gem and Ada — it would be difficult to accommodate what three county commissions want. It would be far easier just to accommodate Eagle’s requests when it wants to develop, he said.
Other residents agreed.
Mary May, a fifth-generation Idahoan who has lived in Eagle for 30 years, said if Eagle wants to control how the Foothills develop, why wouldn’t it annex Avimor?
“To turn away now will not stop changes to Eagle,” said May, who served one term on the Ada County Highway District Commission before losing her bid for re-election in 2022. “It will not stop the growth or halt the trips or somehow lessen effects on our community. It will simply cede total control to someone else.”
Other residents praised Avimor’s trails and said annexation would assure public access to the vast network.
Tami Bromley, a Middleton resident who rides horses in the area, said she lived in Colorado and watched many of her community’s trails and open spaces get eaten up by development.
“I want to try and maintain some level of open space for people,” Bromley said, “so that you don’t have to get in the car and drive three hours just to reach open space. Whether it’s a person who wants to take a hike or walk with dogs, Avimor has been a tremendous partner in allowing that.”
Names of people still waiting to testify remained on the list after midnight, forcing the council to continue the hearing on a later date: 6 p.m. Monday, March 27.
That would mark the fourth meeting that the city has held to take public testimony on the Avimor annexation. In January, the Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing that required two meetings, nine hours in all.
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