BOISE — Mayor Dave Bieter has come under fire on social media for a photo of him talking with the lawyer representing a controversial trucking terminal project earlier this week.
The ACHD Community Watch Dogs Facebook page on Wednesday night posted a picture of Bieter talking with Jason Mau, lawyer for Ohio-based R+L Carriers, at a break during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. This was in the midst of a contentious hearing on whether the company would be allowed to build a 98-bay trucking terminal next to the Blue Valley mobile home park.
The residents of the mobile home park, who have fought the project at varying levels of city government since last summer, and other critics of the mayor called the conversation a violation of transparency and in bad faith. When asked what the conversation was about, Bieter said he pulled Mau into the office because it was loud in the lobby and he wanted to let Mau know that council may not come to a decision on the contentious issue that night.
Bieter said he also asked Mau if there was another parcel for the company to build on instead of the property next to the mobile home park.
“All I talked about was timing,” he said. “...I just said, ‘I don’t know if they’re going to make a decision tonight, and your timing could be moved even longer, and is there some other property?’”
Bieter said he could not say whether the city had offered R+L Carriers a land swap for another parcel in the area for the project because of confidentiality.
Ultimately council approved the project Tuesday night after hours of testimony from the neighborhood and its supporters. But the council sent it back to the Design Review Committee to be designed again so the most active parts of the terminal are placed away from Blue Valley. The city is still determining a date for this hearing and other details.
The public Facebook page that posted the photo is a group of unknown individuals who focus on issues related to the Ada County Highway District.
Bonnie Hardey, president of the South Eisenman Neighborhood Association representing Blue Valley, said she was livid when she saw Bieter meeting with the lawyer during the meeting. She felt like this, combined with the quick motion made by Council President Lauren McLean after testimony, showed that the city went into the hearing with its mind made up to approve the project.
“To me, I don’t have to prove what they were doing,” Hardey said. “All there has to be is the appearance that this thing has already been decided, and for the mayor to cop out to say he was trying to negotiate? No, no, no, no, no.”
She also was frustrated because she saw Council Member Lisa Sanchez talking with one of the members of the R+L Carriers team during a break in council chambers, which she said showed bias toward the company.
Sanchez said she was talking with a wide variety of people at the meeting, including Blue Valley residents.
“It can be difficult sometimes because emotions arise and in that heightened emotional state, people can make assumptions that just aren’t true,” she said, Thursday.
City officials have faced difficulties in navigating the trucking terminal application for months because Blue Valley is a residential area. But both the neighborhood and R+L’s land are zoned for light industrial, predating city annexation of the formerly Ada County land.
Because the neighborhood is within the airport noise overlay zone, city officials say it’s illegal for Blue Valley or any of the other land to be zoned residential. However, Hardey disputes this.