Eagle’s P&Z votes against application to annex Avimor into city

After hours of testimony spread over two nights this month, the Eagle Planning & Zoning Commission has voted not to recommend a proposal to annex the large Avimor development north of the city.

The annexation would bring the bulk of Avimor’s residents into Eagle’s city limits, making them taxpayers and recipients of city services. The decision of whether or not to annex the proposed community would have ramifications for Eagle for decades, as thousands of new residents are added and the city’s bills increase. And, as annexation advocates argue, it would also give Eagle more say over what grows in the hills above the small suburb, preserving large swaths of the promontory for public use.

The testimony, which was largely against the motion, touched on questions about cost, water quality, open space, density and more.

“I strongly oppose the annexation of Avimor’s Mega Evolution. Eagle’s acreage will more than double to more than 57 square miles. There is no benefit in annexing Avimor,” said Linda Lawbacher of Eagle. “The mayor says this is an opportunity for Eagle to control the growth around him, according to the Idaho Statesman. The reality is that they can control Eagle for a few thousand dollars in developer donations. That’s wrong.”

Former Mayor Nancy Merrill said she hopes the project will be annexed.

“I’m for Avimor,” she said. “I have been involved with this project and have seen it grow since Ada County approved planned communities. At the time we were pretty much against it. Over the years I have watched this community grow and watched the standards under which they brought their annexation and I will tell you that it is above Eagle’s standard. With Avimor, we have to recognize that this is a huge, big project and we’re taking a big, huge bite. But it is planned.”

The Avimor development covers more than 17,000 acres of land spread across Ada, Boise and Gem counties. Developers hope to build 8,761 homes over the next few decades.

hoping for a city

The developers hope to be incorporated into the City of Eagle. It would allow them to operate under a single municipal government, rather than seeking permits from the county commissions in the three counties.

Avimor’s attorney, Deborah Nelson, dismissed many of the citizens’ claims, saying the project would not burden existing Eagle taxpayers, provide adequate safe drinking water and more.

“Avimor is doing more than his fair share,” Nelson said. “More than usual in developments.”

Nelson said an economic impact study commissioned by the city, which showed the development would weigh on taxpayers over time, was flawed and failed to account for certain factors.

The commissioners fought that the study – and a competing study by Avimor’s representatives – should not be done properly.

“I think a third study needs to be done just to break the tie,” Commissioner Derek Smith said. “We often find ourselves in this situation. An expert says this, another expert says that, and I, a non-expert, have to give an opinion.”

P&Z agrees no

Ultimately, this was a factor that led Smith not to recommend that the city council approve the application.

“It’s not no,” he said. “It’s just not now.”

He requested that the city get a formal match between the two economic studies and that Avimor and the city agree on road standards.

A vote saw the annexation fail 3-1, with Smith, Trent Wright, and Diane McLaughlin voting to reject the annexation proposal. Steve Guerber, also a former mayor and member of the P&Z board, voted against the motion to dismiss. Another commissioner, Todd McCauley, abstained from the discussion.

Commissioner Wright noted that the process does not end with Monday’s vote. The application goes to the Eagle City Council.

“We know that’s part of the game,” he said. “It’s alive and breathing for another day, but we need to give the motion, as well as the City Council, an opportunity to understand our decision.”

BoiseDev’s Margaret Carmel contributed coverage.

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