Kuna City Hall

Kuna City Hall, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.

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A slate of new stores and a multifamily housing project may be coming to the northwest corner of Meridian and Deer Flat roads in Kuna after City Council approved annexation and a rezone of 41 acres bordering the intersection.

The Black Rock Marketplace, which applicant SH69 Holdings hopes to develop, would consist of 28 acres of commercial development and a 13-acre multifamily housing project that could be as large as a 52-unit apartment building but also as low density as a set of townhomes.

Though the council has shot down a number of annexation requests for residential-only projects over the last few weeks, predominately citing stress on Kuna’s sewer system, the city’s pursuit of more commercial development ultimately gained the proposal’s first step unanimous favor from council on Nov. 4.

The project, however, will only materialize if city council and the Kuna Planning and Zoning Commission both approve a future, more fleshed out preliminary plat proposal for the site. That’s unlike recently rejected residential projects, many of which were preliminary plat proposals combined with annexation requests.

SEWER CONCERNS

Before voting in favor of annexation, Councilman Richard Cardoza questioned why the project should be OK’d when others were turned away as city sewer infrastructure, particularly the Danskin Lift Station, nears capacity.

A condition forcing the developer to work with city staff to fund upgrades to the sewer system was attached to the annexation proposal; the same condition was attached to recently approved and denied preliminary plat proposals. But Mayor Joe Stear reminded council that unlike with recent subdivision proposals, sewer details can be worked out before council votes on Black Rock Marketplace again.

“Tonight, we’re not talking about sewer capacity. We’re not talking about any of those things,” Stear said.

Still, Cardoza said development proposals should include a plan for funding infrastructure improvements before they’re brought before council. He also argued that once a property is annexed, its owner gains leverage, necessitating locking down a funding agreement early.

“It makes it hard for me to make a decision on a denial or acceptance when I don’t know what’s going to happen later. Now we’ve got you (the developer) in the city. You’ve kind of got both of our testicles in your hand,” he said. “You’re already in the city. … I would love to see the decision-making made so much easier” by making arrangements to fund sewer upgrades ahead of developers coming to Kuna City Council.

Stear said he understands there are issues with how the city is tackling its sewer problem, but added changes are on the way.

City Engineer “Paul (Stevens) is working diligently to get those resolved,” he said.

Senior planner Troy Behunin relayed a message from Economic Development Director Lisa Holland, who was watching the Nov. 4 meeting remotely; he echoed Stear and City Attorney Bill Gigray in saying the city will still have discretion to reject fleshed out plans for Black Rock at a later date, allowing council to ensure a funding agreement has been reached by then. He also pointed out adding commercial developments that boost tax revenue will help free up funds for infrastructure upgrades like those the sewer system needs.

“I want commercial,” Cardoza clarified amid his hesitancy to support Black Rock. “We need to get away from rooftops. We need to get to commercial frontage. I would love to see everything down Meridian Road be commercial, to be honest with you.”

Developers included the multifamily housing proposal in their plans because the area is designated for mixed-use projects in Kuna’s comprehensive plan, said T.J. Angstman, representing SH69 Holdings, the applicant.

It’s unclear which stores would take root in the Black Rock development.

PATAGONIA EAST

Council rejected a separate application Nov. 4 for a 173.8-acre housing project’s annexation and preliminary plat proposals.

The Patagonia East, Lakes and Ridge subdivisions would have held 561 homes at the northwest, northeast and southeast corners of Locust Grove and Hubbard roads, but the project was the latest to fall amid rising sewer concerns.

The subdivisions also included a land offer from developers, who offered the Kuna School District a 60% discount on a 10-acre site for a future elementary school should the development be approved.

Cardoza was on the losing end of a 2-1 vote.

“The Patagonia is a very nice addition to the City of Kuna and I feel the city should work with the developer to enlarge the lift station that he built years ago and make it available to handle more EDU’s (equivalent dwelling units),” he wrote by email Tuesday. “The city seems to be at a lapse of not being able to meet some of our responsibility to provide infrastructure and should be working with contractors to solve the problems.”

He confirmed he hoped council would delay a vote until an agreement was reached between developers and the city.

In its last set of subdivision-related votes, council approved plans for two subdivisions but rejected another, citing sewer concerns. Council lacked authority to outright reject development in the two cases it did approve, since the areas had already been annexed by the city, Gigray said.

Blake Jones covers Kuna and Meridian for the Idaho Press. You can reach him at bjones@idahopress.com and follow him on Twitter @jonesblakej.

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