Regional town of Boise hopes to attract businesses to farmland
Driving up Interstate 84 after the last Caldwell exit westbound to Ontario, drivers pass acre after acre of farmland. Some of it is actively cultivated, but much of it is dry, awaiting interested developers. Exiting the freeway near Farmway Road, drivers pass abandoned farm buildings and mining, gravel pits and murky ponds.
Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas and his team want to transform the neighborhood over the next 20 years. They draw up a plan to foster the development expected by landowners by installing roads, traffic lights, sewers and water.
The city hopes to attract developers, especially industrial companies, possibly including a food processing company to keep agriculture alive in the area. The city also hopes to take advantage of the freeway traffic by adding more stores and restaurants.
But this vision has not been greeted warmly before. Two years ago, Canyon County Commissioners said no to Caldwell’s request to turn 947 acres near I-84 into a commercial employment mecca. You would be forfeiting part of our future tax base, the Commissioners said.
Now, with a new county commissioner on the board, Nancolas hopes to push the new proposal forward in his final months in office.
Caldwell hopes to replicate business park success
The city council is considering a 895 acre district along I-84 and US 20/26 near Farmway Road. Some of the predominantly agricultural acreage is in Caldwell, but most of it is on county land that the city would annex.
Boasting the success of Indian Creek Plaza and Sky Ranch Business Park, the city is keen to create an urban renewal district to attract large industrial and business developments to northwest Caldwell.
Caldwell’s only existing city renewal district, which has helped fund infrastructure for Indian Creek Plaza and Sky Ranch Business Park, expires in 2022. The city wants to continue using the fundraising tool to attract business.
Caldwell chief economic officer Steven Jenkins said one of the reasons the city is looking for another urban renewal district is because the Sky Ranch business park is filling up.
“Sky Ranch was once 400 acres of (farm) land, and now it’s a robust and growing industrial park,” Jenkins said in a Zoom interview. “We are delighted (with) the result. We have nearly 2,000 jobs, a million square feet under roof and over 50 businesses in the region.
Jenkins wants to replicate the success of the Sky Ranch.
District needs approval from Canyon County
On September 20, city council determined that the area met the “deterioration or deterioration” description necessary to qualify it for urban renewal.
The move marks the second attempt by Nancolas and the city council to get the district approved. In 2019, council approved a similar area for urban renewal, but the Canyon County Council of Commissioners denied the city’s request.
The district had to appear before the commissioners because the site is largely on county land. County officials feared losing potential tax revenue for the district.
When an urban renewal district is created, the tax base of other tax jurisdictions in the region is frozen. Tax revenues from the frozen base continue to flow to each tax district, but any income from increasing property values is diverted to the city renewal agency until the district expires in 20 years.
The diverted revenues finance infrastructure projects and prepare the area to welcome developers.
The three-member committee voted 2-1 to reject the proposal.
Commissioner Tom Dale and Commissioner Pam White opposed the proposal. Dale retired last year and was replaced by Commissioner Keri Smith, who was the executive director of Destination Caldwell.
City attorney Mark Hilty told City Council, “There has been a change of leadership (on the board) and we will try again. “
The natural landscape made development difficult
The area’s irrigation waterways have helped label it deterioration, Hilty said.
“There are channels and drainage structures associated with the river,” he said. “The limited access highway and topography made it difficult for private development to fill these gaps. “
Hilty said most of the urban renewal district’s revenue would go into road projects.
“Some agricultural uses are being abandoned,” he said. “There are holes in the ground which are causing difficulties. There is no street layout and an underdeveloped traffic infrastructure. There are obsolete buildings and deteriorating structures.
In his last State of the City address on September 23, Nancolas spoke about how Indian Creek Plaza has brought safety and a better quality of life to residents of Caldwell.
Jenkins agrees. He said Indian Creek Plaza has helped city staff improve Caldwell’s reputation and enabled him to attract residents as well as developers and businesses to the city.
The city council will not approve a plan for the area until the council of the urban renewal agency, the city planning and zoning commission and county commissioners have spoken.
Rachel Spacek covers western Ada and eastern Canyon counties. A story suggestion or a question? Email Spacek at [email protected].
This story was originally published October 4, 2021 4:00 a.m.