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City of Caldwell OK’s housing development, despite school district’s plea to wait  

The Caldwell city council approved a housing development Thursday, Aug. 4, despite a request from the Vallivue School District that all developments be put on hold until the district passes a bond issue for new facilities.

Joseph Palmer, spokesman for the district, asked the city to deny new housing developments during public comment at Thursday’s council meeting. The development passed in a 5-1 vote after around five minutes of discussion. The council encouraged the developer to cooperate with the district.

The development will include 74 townhomes, 44 single family cottages and 23 estate lots. The council denied another development, also located in the Vallivue district, citing concerns about roadways and public safety.

Palmer’s request was not new. Each time the city considers new developments, Vallivue sends a letter to Caldwell leaders, reminding them of growth’s impact on schools and asking them to reject the plans, said Palmer.

Six out of seven Vallivue elementary schools are over capacity, and the district can no longer use portable classrooms or shift attendance boundaries to absorb the growth, Palmer told the Idaho Press

Vallivue floated a $55 million bond to build two new elementary schools in March, but the measure failed with 64.4% of the vote, just under the two-thirds supermajority required to pass.

Since then, the district has met with developers, asking for a $500 per-door donation to help with costs of overcrowding.

“Since the bond failed, and seeing that the city council will approve new development regardless of the impact it will have on schools, the Vallivue school district decided to be proactive rather than doing nothing,” said Palmer.

Some developers have agreed to donate the money, but others meet with district personnel and deny their request, or refuse to meet with them at all.

City and county agencies can collect impact fees to reduce negative consequences of growth, but school districts are currently prohibited from doing so by Idaho law.

“Until state legislators decide to include school districts as recipients of impact fees, we are at the mercy of developers voluntarily donating funds to assist in mitigating the impact of growth,” Palmer said Thursday.

The district will float the $55 million bond again in an Aug. 30 election.

Approved developer has not consulted with Vallivue

Steve Arnold of A Team Land Consultants presented the development plan to the council on behalf of Doeppl Premier Properties. Arnold stated that the developers had not consulted with the Vallivue School District.

“It’d be something that we’d take under consideration,” Arnold said of the $500 donation. He added that he believed the requested money was an impact fee with a different name and didn’t think it would make a dent in the district’s overcrowding problem.

Councilman Brad Doty was the lone vote against the motion.

“I felt that the developers, or the representative that they sent, didn’t care much about our issues within our school districts,” Doty told EdNews. “It seemed like someone from outside the area that wasn’t interested much in our issue saying ‘we’re gonna do the development and I’m not obligated to help the city or the school district in any way.’”

After Thursday’s vote, Caldwell mayor Jarom Wagoner encouraged Arnold to reach out to the school district, saying he hoped the district and the developer could create a “good partnership.”

— Sadie Dittenber reports for Idaho Education News. This article was originally published on idahoednews.org.

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