The Value of Boise's Open Space Levy

How do we begin to measure and quantify the value of our preserved open space in Idaho?  Open space is a compendious term, so broadly coined it can begin to feel like it includes the lawn in your own backyard. For those of us who live and work in Boise, the surrounding foothills and open spaces are our backyard. They are what makes Idaho such a desirable place to live and work. Our parks, foothills and trails build character, strength and resilience in our Boise community. They also provide habitat for wildlife, birds and all sorts of flora and fauna. They are where we head at the end of a long work day to run, play with our kids, bike or walk our dogs.  They are where many of us go to unwind.   


Boise, called a recreationalist's paradise and ranked as the #12 best place to live in America by U.S. News and World Report this year, will face a test next month. On November 7, voters will see another open space and clean water quality protection levy added to their ballot. Voters saw this levy in 2015, but it's back. The city mistakenly failed to collect $5 million in property tax it was supposed to raise this year to protect open space and water quality. Voters aren't being asked to pay more money, or to pay twice. They are simply being asked to revote in favor of open space as the error can't be corrected administratively. The levy passed in 2015, with more than 74% of votes in favor of it, but there is less time in advance of this election to let the public know their vote is needed on this critical issue. At Idaho Business for the Outdoors, we recognize open space as an asset to our state's capitol and a business advantage to our state's economy. 

Open spaces continue to define and enhance the economic prospects of Boise.  They give the city character, control urban sprawl, provide a valued tool in employee recruitment and retention, and studies by Headwaters Economics show communities with open spaces and protected lands promote jobs and higher personal incomes.  Personal income among Idahoans is growing at the fastest rate in the nation since 1948, when the data was first compiled, according to a recent Bloomberg report.  Not only is personal income increasing, but it is increasing in higher wage jobs with healthcare, manufacturing, tech, and service jobs leading growth industries.  With these higher paying jobs, come increased spending power.  People want to live and work near open spaces.  "The more vibrant public places and open spaces there are in a community, the more desirable a community becomes and the more likely it is for property values to increase," the National Association of Realtor's reports. In Boise, one only has to look at the rising prices in the North End, West Boise, and East Boise along the foothills to realize housing developments near open space continue to see higher property valuations and higher demand. People are willing pay a premium to be near preserved open space.  

Not only do people want to live near open spaces, but studies show open spaces support health and well being benefits among individuals and communities. People are searching for a sense of connection and community in their lives.  It is increasingly found in the open corridors we thoughtfully, sometimes even accidentally, leave open and undeveloped in our communities.  In November's election, Idaho Business for the Outdoors will support the opportunity we all have as community members and business leaders, to engage in thoughtful placemaking.  Let's support the city of Boise through its open spaces and clean water protection levy.  This kind of placemaking is an opportunity, as much as it is a business philosophy, for us at Idaho Business for the Outdoors.  It is about capitalizing on our city's natural outdoor assets and respecting what is wild and open for the advantage it provides individuals, families our business community and future generations.