A lawsuit that went all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court over a small parking lot spanning two mayoral estates in the city of Eagle has now been settled, but the city will now use a long-planned parking project to comply with the court’s order , rather than forcing the losing homeowners association to rebuild the original parking lot on their property.
The lawsuit was filed by the City of Eagle against the Homeowners Association for the Two Rivers subdivision for the closure of a four-space parking lot on S. Channel Way that provided public access to the Greenbelt. The parking lot was open to the public for years until the city said in late 2016 when Two Rivers put up “Residents Only” parking signs and eventually blocked vehicle access with bollards and the city filed a lawsuit in court to enforce public access.
The Idaho Supreme Court finally ruled in the city of Eagle’s favor in 2020, ordering that Two Rivers HOA rebuild the parking lot and open it to the public by October of last year. Instead, the City of Eagle says it will settle the dispute through an easement swap near construction of a new Mace Park parking lot near the proposed Boise River footbridge near Eagle Road.
BoiseDev sent several questions about the parking lot, which covered the cost and resolution of the lawsuit, to city spokeswoman Dana Biberston, who said she is waiting for a response from Eagle’s city attorney before responding because it is a legal matter . At the time of writing, the city has not directly responded to our inquiries, instead directing us to the city’s Just the Facts page.
The city spent approximately $71,000 on the lawsuit, according to payment books obtained by BoiseDev in a public records request.
Messages left for Two Rivers President Kevin Zasio requesting an interview went unanswered.
This problem dates back to 2002.
According to the first complaint, filed in Ada County’s Fourth Circuit, the Eagle City Council approved a proposed unit development with two neighborhood streets that are private to residents and gated. In return, the city approved the small parking lot on S. Channel Way to allow public access to the Greenbelt.
The city, which submitted the property in October 2017, was open to the public from 2004 to 2015, until the city “became aware” that Two Rivers HOA had placed “Resident Only” parking signs on the property. In February 2016, the city sent a letter to then-HOA President Victor Miller, who is now the Ada County GOP Chairman, telling him the property was public and must remain open. The HOA reportedly responded back in July, urging the city to cease and desist from all public access to the property.
The city sent another letter in March 2017, reaffirming the public’s right to access the property. Finally, in October 2017, the city’s trail coordinator discovered that bollards had been erected blocking access to the parking lot. At that point, the city, under Mayor Stan Ridgeway, decided to file a lawsuit against the HOA.
Two Rivers responded to Eagle in court filings, arguing that the area where the parking lot is located was “undeniably owned” by the HOA and the city’s approval of public access was merely an oral discussion and there was no legal basis for the subdivision that existed keep public land.
The district court judge sided with the subdivision in 2019, saying the city had no claim to the property because the easement on the property was never officially transferred to the city.
Enter the Idaho Supreme Court
After the city lost Eagle, the city council decided to appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court for another chance to plead their case. And this time they succeeded.
The Supreme Court’s opinion cited several places in the minutes of the 2002 sessions where the subdivision developer specifically offered parking to address concerns about access to the green belt in the area, as two of the nearby streets were gated. ISC said this showed an offer had been made and the city accepted the concept, resulting in the property being built and used for years.
“Considering the undisputed facts in a light most favorable to the non-relocating party, we believe that the City accepted TR’s offer on May 13, 2003 when it approved TR’s design review application,” states the May 2020 statement. “More specifically, the city accepted TR’s broader offer for dedication made at the November 26, 2002 hearing, and then finalized that acceptance after considering the specific site and design of the car park included in TR’s application for design review.”
This remanded the case back to the Fourth Circuit Court for arbitration and a ruling in favor of the City of Eagle. This agreement set out several requirements for Two Rivers, including that an easement in the area should allow public access, a new 3-4 lot should be built, paid for and maintained by Two Rivers, and released for use by October 2021.
According to Two Rivers, the parking lot poses a security risk
It is not known exactly what was discussed between Eagle Mayor Jason Pierce, city officials and Two Rivers HOA to reach a decision, but a September 2020 letter from Kevin Zasio, President of Two Rivers, provides insight into what may have been discussed. The letter states that the HOA acknowledges the finding and must come to a resolution, but also notes the potential for further litigation against the city.
“I was advised by our attorney that the issues surrounding the verdict could result in more protracted litigation for years to come,” Zasio said. “Having litigated this matter for nearly three years, rather than continuing to litigate new parking-related issues, we felt it was better to work with the city on a positive way forward. Although the city has agreed to arbitration, the city also appears more interested in provoking Two Rivers into further litigation than addressing our fundamental safety concerns that have propelled this matter to the extreme in the first place.”
The letter goes on to say that Two Rivers never had a parking problem until a few years ago when people trespassed on private property from the parking lot, which Zasio said created “security issues.” He said the city hasn’t done enough to allay the neighborhood’s safety concerns and there is still ample space for people to park on the street to access the Greenbelt and other amenities.
“As I have said repeatedly, for some reason the parking lot invites people more interested in entering our private property and other illegal activities than the people parking on the immediate street,” he said. “I can’t explain the discrepancy, but it’s a real problem. Since Two Rivers removed the parking lot following the District Court decision, illegal activity has decreased by over 90%.”
The city decides to use the long-planned city park to comply with a court order
A few weeks ago, the Eagle City Council signed a memorandum of understanding with Two Rivers for a new parking lot.
But it’s not in the old location on the S. Channel Way.
Instead, Two Rivers agreed to grant a new public easement on property it owns that borders proposed Mace Park near Eagle Road, which is planned for the terminus of a new footbridge that will cross the Boise River in crossed near Eagle Road. This easement will allow the city to build a landscape buffer around the parking lot as required by the code and use the property to wire parking lot lights and sprinkler systems for irrigation.
At a Nov. 1 town hall, Pierce told the crowd that Two Rivers would irrigate and maintain the area, but it’s unclear if that maintenance extends to the entire park or just the adjacent scenic areas. It’s also unclear if Two Rivers is contributing any funds towards creating the park or the larger parking lot.
This lot and park has been in the works for years, according to the city’s website. According to the site, talks about the park began in 2011 when the city received the land as a donation to convert into a park as part of the Mace River Ranch subdivision development. Early renderings on the site from 2013 show a dozen parking spaces, but the most recent drawing shows the parking lot extending further south towards the Two Rivers property with an additional 15 parking spaces.
BoiseDev asked Idaho Supreme Court Speaker Nate Poppino about enforcing court orders when the public thinks they won’t be carried out. He pointed to a section of the Idaho Code of Civil Procedure that states that a party’s failure to execute the terms of a court order in a lawsuit could provide the basis for a contempt of court motion.
“If a judgment requires a party to transfer land, hand over any deed or other document, or perform any other specified act, and the party fails to do so within the specified time, the court may order that the act upon the disobedient party will be charged by another person appointed by the court,” the page said. “When done, the action has the same effect as if done by the party.”