City Council public hearing comprehensive plan

Bill Gigray, city attorney, speaks to Kuna City Council members at the June 4 public hearing for the proposed comprehensive plan update.

Kuna residents have another opportunity to comment on the final draft of the city’s updated comprehensive plan, which, once approved, will guide city projects and incoming development.

Kuna City Council members heard testimony for the final draft of the plan at their June 4 meeting and, following the testimony, decided to continue the public hearing to June 18. As previously reported council members chose to allow themselves and others interested to consider adding text about preserving dark skies to the plan and changing the zoning designation on one or several parcels on Kuna Road (on the future land-use map).

The complete comprehensive plan draft and maps can be found on the city’s website: https://kunacity.id.gov/

At the June 18 meeting, the council could choose to approve the plan following testimony or it could have another hearing on the revised plan after changes from the testimony have been added.

Here’s what was discussed at the June 4 meeting:

PARCEL ZONING DESIGNATIONS ON KUNA ROAD

Chase Craig, who handles real estate in Kuna, requested an approximately 23-acre parcel on Kuna Road be changed from being zoned low-density to medium-density residential.

Craig’s request for that change on the comprehensive plan was denied by planning and zoning commissioners at their hearing for the plan because they said it wouldn’t make sense to have a medium-density residential parcel in the middle of low-density parcels.

Wendy Howell, planning and zoning director, said if Craig’s request were approved, it would make sense to change a conjoining parcel to medium-density residential.

Craig brought his request before the council, with a little something extra: a suggestion to consider designating more parcels near his as medium-density residential. This would complement the incoming development on Falcon Crest Golf Course and create an additional feeling of an entryway into Kuna.

Craig added that more houses built in that area up against Indian Creek could contribute money to an eventual bike path or Greenbelt.

“I think one of the inhibitors if we do low-density residential is having less homes or home sites to bear the burden of that potential cost, causing it to potentially go undeveloped for years,” Craig said.

Council president Briana Buban-Vonder Haar expressed approval for this change but wanted to give the commissioners an opportunity to comment on the suggestion, one reason for the continued public hearing. Two other possibilities being considered are changing the zoning designation for Craig’s parcel and several others nearby, only changing Craig’s parcel or not changing anything.

Buban Vonder-Haar requested planning and zoning staff present several map options of the possibilities at the June 18 hearing.

“I am somewhat moved by the testimony, noting that we have listed in the comp plan our desire to have pathways, Greenbelt … and the idea that maybe it would be more likely that we would get that sort of thing included sooner rather than later if it was a slightly higher density … all of that makes sense to me,” Buban-Vonder Haar said.

Planning and Zoning commissioner Dana Hennis said in an email he doesn’t think more residential is needed through there.

“We seem to be getting flooded with the residential developments in the city and the citizens are concerned with that,” Hennis wrote. “The development that is going in around the golf course will have plenty of residential — I would think we would need some transitions developments along the corridor or mixed-use/commercial to support the people living on that side of the city.”

Council members supported a couple of other parcel zoning change requests, including about 9 acres near Ardell Road be changed from commercial to low-density and about 40 acres on the corner of Deer Flat and Meridian be changed from commercial to mixed-use. The parcels would be contiguous to the same and complementary zones.

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ADDING A DARK SKIES GOAL

One resident requested an additional goal be added in the proposed development guide concerning preserving dark skies in Kuna. This would help preserve a feel of open space and combat light pollution.

Cindy Giesen told council members she had sat down with the planning and zoning department to go over the city’s current lighting ordinance. Giesen said she has “total confidence” that department staff will continue to do “an awesome job” concerning the lighting ordinance, but future departments may not hold on to that value.

“For a 10-year plan of Kuna … I’m concerned this planning department might not be here and so they won’t notice the importance of lighting,” Giesen said. “I feel like it’s a contract when you tell the people of Kuna that you care about the skies and the bird sanctuaries and insects, our sleep patterns. … I feel like something in this document will alert everybody to the importance, that we’re paying attention.”

Buban-Vonder Haar said she liked what Giesen had to say and she agreed with the sentiments and reasoning. She offered to write up possible text to be added and would offer suggestions where to put it.

Giesen said after the hearing she went home and did a happy dance.

“I am extremely grateful that during the meeting, the city council considered my request and will add some statement to the Kuna Comprehensive Plan that commits to protect Kuna’s dark skies from unnecessary and avoidable light pollution,” Giesen said a few days after the meeting. “I’m very glad I attended. It seemed to make a positive difference.”

Giesen added she feels it’s a good plan overall and appreciates the effort the city put in to collecting public input to include in the update. She hopes more people will attend these meetings because she feels public input is considered and questions are answered.

WHAT WASN’T DISCUSSED

Several agencies submitted letters expressing their thoughts on how Kuna’s comprehensive plan could affect or work in concert with their goals.

The Ada County Development Services Department and Boise Mayor Dave Bieter both complimented the city’s efforts in updating the plan, however both also expressed concerns.

Ada County Development Services Department said it does not support the Envision Kuna Comprehensive Plan as proposed due to a possible 83% potential loss of agricultural land and the plan’s “very liberal” use of mixed-use zoning designations. Basically, Kuna’s population could get to be too big.

The letter stated Kuna will need to accommodate 20,485 households to support a total population of 60,200 by 2040, according to COMPASS projections. Even with the most conservative land use assumptions applied to the proposed “Future Land Use Map,” the draft comprehensive plan provides for land use capacity to accommodate 50,575 households and a population of 147,173.

“We completely respect the City’s ability to plan for a little more capacity in their future land use designations than the growth demands,” the letter stated. “And yet, we also believe that 250% more capacity than needed demand would place an unnecessary burden on the county’s public facilities and services including jail, court, emergency communication, coroner, emergency medical, juvenile services and many more.”

Bieter also expressed concerns about Kuna’s potential growth, saying the size of Kuna’s area of impact and the “intensity of the designated land uses far exceed the area needed to accommodate” a population of about 54,000 in 2040, according to recent estimates.

Bieter’s letter pointed out that Kuna’s area of impact, as presented in the comprehensive plan draft, is around 7,000 acres larger than Meridian’s, which has a population of 150,000 (nearly 3 times that of Kuna) estimated for 2040. Kuna’s proposed area of impact is around 25,000 acres larger than Eagle’s, which has a population estimate of 58,000 in 2040.

“We encourage you to revisit your area of city impact to create a boundary that reflects a realistic growth pattern and prevents incentives for sprawl and premature annexation,” Bieter’s letter said.

Alx Stevens is the reporter for Kuna Melba News. Contact her at 208-922-3008 or editor@kunamelba.com.