HB 616, promoted by Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, to put new restrictions on urban renewal districts in Idaho, was just voted down in the House, failing on a 33-37 vote. Much of the debate focused on the bill’s proposed ban of “shoestring” annexations into urban renewal districts, in which a piece of property is connected to the rest of the district by a narrow strip of land, such as a road. Hart told the House, “What this bill is doing is just adding a few sideboards, it’s adding some sunshine to the urban renewal agencies.” But Rep. Leon Smith, R-Twin Falls, said Twin Falls used a two-mile long “shoestring” to bring an old grocery store site into its urban renewal district – thereby attracting Dell Computer to the city with 700 new jobs. “It’s been a great thing for the city, and everybody’s happy with that shoestring,” he said. Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, also spoke out against the bill, saying Coeur d’Alene’s urban renewal district used a “shoestring” approach to bring a school into its district, thus allowing its renovation but avoiding bringing any additional private property into the district. “In our community, urban renewal has worked, it’s been very successful,” Sayler told the House.
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