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Politics & Government

Citizen group wants voters to approve any ownership change of Boise parks or open spaces

A neon yellow sign reads: SAVE Murgoitio Park It’s Open Space Not For Development. In the background is a corner of the corn field currently on the Murgoitio parcel of land, with an older neighborhood on the other side of the canal overlooking the land.
Gustavo Sagrero
/
Boise State Public Radio
Signs like these have been popping up all around the Murgoitio parcel of land. The city is looking for ways to turn this land into affordable housing, while locals want this to be a green-space.

State representative John Gannon (D-Boise) is leading a group of supporters asking the city to implement a new ordinance requiring a public vote before any public park or city-owned open space can be sold or repurposed.

He said many public spaces are not deed-protected from sale or a change in use.

“Future generations are depending upon us to keep Boise the wonderful place that it is. That requires some kind of check and balance on decisions that are made to sell park land or repurpose park land or gift park land to some other entity,” he said.

The proposed change would mean voters would weigh in on any plan to sell, trade, give away or change the use of any park or open space in Boise — including golf courses and cemeteries. Transactions for less than 5% of a public space would be exempt from the requirement.

Proposals would be added to existing primary or general election ballots, so there would be no added cost to the city.

Currently, state code allows municipalities to dispose of surplus property with a vote of the city council following a public hearing.

“It would make [the process] more difficult, but it would also ensure that any decision is carefully thought out and carefully decided,” Gannon said.

The proposed ordinance has the support of multiple neighborhood associations and groups such as Friends of Murgoitio Park.

He said the Boise City Council has had the ordinance for several weeks, but has not acted on it.

The group filed a proposed initiative petition for review with the city Tuesday, the first step toward forcing the issue onto an upcoming ballot, by gathering about 9,000 signatures.