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Public records show Ada County, Boise urban renewal agency at war over parking

Public records show Ada County, Boise urban renewal agency at war over parking

September 1, 2009
September 1, 2009

Documents obtained by the Idaho Freedom Foundation show Boise's urban renewal agency and Ada County commissioners fighting over parking operations – and now the county is demanding thousands of dollars from the agency.

The Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) has taken away the first hour of free parking at the Ada County Courthouse and has threatened to remove the first 10 minutes of free parking in favor of a flat rate of $2.50 an hour.

Ada County commissioners want no part of that arrangement. They are now exploring taking over courthouse parking from the CCDC.

"We're not going to play this game anymore," said Commissioner Sharon Ullman. "Our goal is to charge as little as we can for parking. Ultimately, I'd like to have free parking for people doing business with county government, but I don't know if that is possible because we have bonds to pay off. At the very least, I would like to have the first hour of free parking restored."

Ullman says commissioners are especially concerned about public safety. She said citizens are parking at the nearby Winco grocery store and other locations away from the courthouse and jaywalking across the street in front of the Courthouse in order to avoid paying $2.50 per hour to park.

The parking issue has stirred controversy between the commissioners and the urban renewal agency and bills for payment in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Idaho Freedom Foundation, through public records requests, has obtained copies of the sometimes testy correspondence between the agencies.

Until September of last year, the county commissioners were paying $18,000 per month to provide citizens of Ada County the first hour of free parking. The CCDC raised that monthly fee to $42,000, making it unreasonably high for the commissioners to pay.

Commissioners had asked that the hour of free parking, at the lower payment rate, be extended into this year. The urban renewal agency refused that request.

"By agreement between CCDC and Ada County, the CCDC has the unilateral right to set parking rates in those facilities it operates in the Courthouse Corridor," Phil Kushlan, CCDC's executive director, said in a letter to commissioners dated Feb. 27.

"With the number of people parking across the street and the heavy traffic in that area, somebody could get seriously hurt," Ullman said.

"In a joint meeting with the Board of County Commissioners and CCDC Commissioners, options were presented with respect to how the first hour free cost might be compensated to the agency. However, no alternative direction was given us at that time or since," Kushlan said.

The CCDC board reaffirmed that the market rate of $2.50 per hour "is the established short term transient rate," Kushlan said.

In March, Kushlan provided more details of the intended parking arrangements, a proposal that the CCDC Board has since backed away from, at least for the time being.

• Parking validation stickers increased from 75 cents an hour to $2.50
• Law enforcement parking increased from $1 to $2.50 an hour.
• Juror parking increased from 75 cents to $2.50 an hour.
• "The practice of a free 10-minute dropoff/pickup" … "will cease."

Commissioners have accused CCDC of being unresponsive. Commissioners submitted a parking proposal to the urban renewal agency in April then lambasted the CCDC for failing to respond three months later.

"We must regretfully conclude that CCDC does not wish to engage in further good faith negotiations on this subject," commissioners said in a letter dated July 14. Along with that letter, the commissioners presented two invoices to the CCDC - one for $483,600 and another for $217,620 as concession fees to cover the time (248 business days at 10 hours a day) CCDC operated the parking lot immediately east of the Courthouse. The County took over ownership of the surface parking lots at the same time they used eminent domain to take possession of the vacant retail space in the building east of the Courthouse.

Ullman said the invoices, apparently, were the only way of getting CCDC's attention.

In the July letter, the commissioners made it clear that unless an agreement was reached, Ada County intends to cancel CCDC's privilege of operating the parking concession, effective Oct. 1.

Ullman said the urban renewal agency, understandably is looking out for its financial viability. She said commissioners are motivated more by the citizens.

"It's the difference between those who are elected and accountable and those who are not," Ullman said. "As commissioners, we are elected to serve the taxpayers of Ada County and we feel strongly that taxpayers should not have to pay high costs to do business with their county government or their district court."

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