Boise's Modern Zoning Code

Conservation Voters for Idaho is in full support of the City of Boise’s proposed modern zoning code because it will…

  • Make homes more affordable by creating efficiency incentives that lower utility costs, and increasing the supply of starter homes and multifamily homes.
  • Protect our open spaces by limiting sprawl and improving our tree canopy.
  • Make our community safer by supporting more walkable paths and streets that are safe for all modes of transportation.
  • Protect our clean air by lowering our community emissions and making our city more sustainable.

What are Zoning Codes?

Local governments use zoning codes to define what can and cannot be built. Boise’s Comprehensive Plan lays out a vision for the future and the zoning codes offer the tools to implement that vision.

The Public Input Process

While there is always room for improvement, the City of Boise implemented the most extensive and inclusive public input process CVI has witnessed from a local government in Idaho. Despite the significant barriers presented by COVID19, public outreach included:

29 Community Conversations
23 Citywide Advisory Committee Meetings
5 surveys with 6,966 responses
35+ stakeholder meetings
7 Boise city council presentations
12 commission/committee meetings
Multiple rounds of mailers to Boise Residents

Provisions for Sustainability, Affordability, Open Space, and Health & Safety

The full Modern Zoning Code document is nearly 1,000 pages and includes very detailed guidelines for how our City will be built. Here is a summary of the conservation components included in the Zoning Code:

Natural Environment

The Modern Zoning Code includes new and improved policies to help continue to help protect our open spaces and the tree canopy that makes us the City of Trees. 

-A mapping overlay of the Wildland Urban Interface to help guide decisions around areas where our built environment meets the natural environment. 

-Improved mapping overlays of the Boise River and the Foothills to protect sensitive areas

-A new requirement for Class III trees to increase our communities tree canopy, lowering summer energy costs and combating the urban heat island effect. 

-A requirement to increase the diversity of tree species for newly developing sites to create a healthier and more diverse canopy. 

-New tree mitigation policies to protect the existing tree canopy

-enhanced requirements for the protection of trees during construction.

Cars & EV Infrastructure

To protect air quality in Boise’s quickly growing metro area, the Modern Zoning Code provides more opportunities for residents to use electric vehicles (EVs) and alternative modes of transportation.

-Reduced parking requirements for single-family, duplex, tri-plex, and four-plex homes to align with improved public transit and pike/ped infrastructure and reduced need for independent vehicles (owners can still choose to have more spaces available)

-An increase in both electric vehicle charging stations and EV-ready infrastructure within new developments to significantly reduce future costs

Walkable Communities

To protect our clean air and decrease traffic congestion, the Modern Zoning Code will make our communities more walkable and bikeable with improved infrastructure for nonmotorized transit. 

-New connectivity standards to provide clear and efficient walkability for people to access places of interest such as transit, open space, and goods and services

-Improved pathway designs to safely and comfortably accommodate all modes of active transportation. 

-New standards to allow for wider and detached sidewalks in mixed-use areas and along main roadways to increase pedestrian safety and comfort, allow for more shade from trees along sidewalks, and to cut down on traffic congestion. 

-Improved bicycle parking standards based on expected use rather than on the number of required parking spaces. 

-New standards for limited, small-scale retail and cafes in residential neighborhoods for walkability and convenience.

Water Management

The City of Boise has made critical investments to both water quality and quantity for our region. The Modern Zoning Code continues that effort with essential policies to help conserve water.

-A requirement for new developments to have a certificate of assured water supply, which states that water can be provided for a minimum of 100 years. 

-Limits on the amount of grass that can be provided on developments.

-Encouragement for the use of non-potable water for landscape irrigation whenever possible.

-Allowed use for xeriscape landscape designs, as well as other plantings that consume less water.

-Policies to encourage new developments to be focused in areas where there is existing public investment in water supply to ensure we are using our water efficiently.


The new Modern Zoning Code includes provisions to ensure our community is affordable and welcoming for living, working, and playing.

-Policies that allow for more infill, covering critical housing gaps, such as the need for small starter homes for first time home buyers.

-Incentives that allow for multi-family homes (including duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes) that gently increase density and increase affordability without altering the look and feel of neighborhoods.

-Policies that target density in mixed-use neighborhoods that are close to services and transit.

Consumption & Waste

The new Modern Zoning Code includes new waste diversion policies to help Boise reduce, reuse, and recycle as our city continues to grow.

-New incentives to encourage the adaptive reuse of buildings and avoid materials going to the landfill.

-New requirements for multifamily developments to accommodate recycling and compost from homeowners by dedicating equal area to landfill diversion (recycling and compost) as trash.

Food Systems

From protecting our pollinators to conserving our local farm lands, the Modern Zoning Code can help us shape the food systems critical to Boise.

-Requirements for pollinators and other native species in green and open spaces

-Revised guidelines for the annexation and rezones of land to protect the continued operation of farmlands and rangelands.

Buildings & Energy

The Modern Zoning Code includes critical affordability and sustainability incentives to encourage water and energy efficiency and careful increases in density in specific areas. 

-Allowances for more density when developments meet affordable and sustainable requirements. The sustainability provisions include clean energy sources, energy efficiency, and water efficiency.

-Incentives for density, height, and parking in the zones where it makes sense for our community.

-Requirements for buildings in the Mixed-Use areas to be a minimum of two stories and not exceed parking requirements to ensure density is focused in the locations with the infrastructure to support density. 

-Requirements for certain buildings to be placed adjacent to the street to create pedestrian friendly environments where residents can easily walk between businesses. 

-Expanded availability of attached housing styles, which increase the energy efficiency of buildings through shared walls, heat capture by upper floors in cold months, etc.

To learn more about the modern zoning code for the City of Boise, Conservation Voters for Idaho Executive Director Rialin Flores interviews with Tim Keane, Planning and Development Services Director for the City of Boise.

The process of rewriting Boise’s zoning code has continued since 2019, utilizing extensive feedback from the public as well as local businesses, industry representatives, and organizations such as CVI.