More housing needed? Yes, but it brings more traffic. How Nampa just chose between them
The Nampa City Council was divided. Should it approve a 264-apartment complex on Karcher Road near Interstate 84 and provide much-wanted housing? Or reject it, to avoid making much-unwanted traffic congestion worse?
Jacob Bower, a council member, said he has typically votes to deny multifamily developments like the one before the council on Tuesday. Neighbors often oppose them, and he sympathizes.
But this project seemed to be in the ideal location, near the freeway and commercial development, he said. Bower said he also supports workforce housing in “certain places.”
“I have 17 employees now, and they’re in the $20-an-hour range up to over $40, but in those lower $20-an-hour ranges, people have a hard time finding a place to live,” said Bower, a chiropractor.
In the end, the council rejected the apartments, but not before confronting two of the most pressing growth-related issues in the Treasure Valley: the need for more housing — especially affordable housing — and the resistance to large apartment developments among neighbors worried about traffic, crime and property values.
The Northwest Village apartments were proposed by TV Holdings LLC and Zion Ventures LLC. TV Holdings is run by Mark Bottles, an Eagle real estate agent. Zion Ventures is run by Riley Verner, an employee at Bottles’ real estate office.
Randy Haverfield, who sits on the Nampa City Council, represented the developers. He recused himself from the council’s consideration of the proposal.
The apartments would be built in 11 buildings on the northeast corner of Karcher and Sundance roads, on a vacant lot next to a Maverik convenience store, about a third of a mile west of Karcher’s intersection with Nampa-Caldwell Boulevard.
The developers say they would charge market rents. The average rent for a studio apartment is $1,000, a one-bedroom $1,430, and a two-bedroom $1,450 as of Monday, according to Rent.com, a listing service. Such services typically calculate averages from their own listings. Zumper, another service, places the one-bedroom average at $960 for a studio, $1,245 for a one-bedroom, and $1,385 for a two-bedroom.
Residents concerned over Karcher traffic
Dozens of area residents testified in opposition. Most of their testimony was about traffic, but some neighbors voiced concerns about high-density housing and apartment tenants bringing crime to the area. The Vallivue School District sent a letter to the City Council opposing the development because of school overcrowding.
Neighbors who live near the Karcher and Middleton intersection said they sit for several minutes at stop lights as they wait for traffic to clear. They said it is no longer safe to walk along Karcher Road because of all of the congestion.
The Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho reported Karcher Road is one of the roadways with the most significant growth in traffic volumes over the last five years.
Nancy Higgins, who said she has lived in Nampa for 35 years, said the duration of her commute from her home about a half mile from the proposed apartments has at least doubled becaause of the traffic on Karcher Road.
“I commute 14 miles every day, and the past five years it has gone from 18 to 20 minutes to 45 minutes to an hour,” she said. “I can sit at the light on Middleton Road north up over the overpass. I’ve also sat at streetlights three miles away.”
Stephanie Peters, who said she has lived near the proposed apartments for over 40 years, said Karcher Road is “overcrowded” and “full of distracted drivers.” She said she worried that more than 200 new residents would make the area even more unsafe.
“I’ve seen the street so full of cars that emergency vehicles cannot get by,” Peters said.
The Idaho Transportation Department plans to improve Karcher road beginning this summer. The department said it will reconfigure the I-84 off-ramps and add a right turn lane onto Karcher Road. ITD also plans to add a lane on the Karcher Road bridge over I-84.
The plan also includes adding a westbound lane from the Karcher Road off-ramp to Sundance Road. ITD also plans to widen sidewalks on Karcher, the agency says on its website.
People need a place to live, said supporters
A few residents, like Jean Mutchie and Margie Potter, supported the proposal, citing the lack of affordable housing, though this project would not include low-income units. Some proponents of more construction say a larger supply of housing of all types could restrain price increases by helping to balance supply with demand.
Mutchie, who served on the City Council for over a year until she decided not to run again in 2021, said she supported the proposal because homeownership is not achievable for many people in Nampa.
“We have far too many people who come into this community who cannot participate in the American dream,” she said. “They have a right to that American dream. For them, maybe it is multifamily homes. They may have to rent a place because they don’t get a choice at this point.”
Potter, the development and public relations director for the Caldwell Salvation Army, said she recently met a single mother who has three children and works as a nurse in Canyon County but can’t afford a home.
“She’s been showering and cooking at a friend’s house and sleeping in her car at night,” Potter said. ”She’s a nurse, but there’s no place that she can afford to live. She thinks she will probably have to move out of our area.”
In a 3-2 vote, the council members denied the project.
The three members of the majority, Darl Bruner, Victor Rodriguez and Natalie Jangula, agreed that the roads needed to be improved before apartments could be built. Bower and Dale Reynolds voted to approve the apartments.
“Traffic , there’s no question I see it and I drive that road,” Bruner said. “And I don’t see where it’s going to help with the workforce housing if you need to make 28 to 30 bucks an hour.”