New North Idaho Rep. Ed Morse, R-Hayden, introduced his first bill this morning, drawing plaudits from members of the House Revenue & Taxation Committee. “This is a positive for private property rights,” declared Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, “and it is a positive for taxpayers, and it’s time somebody did something.”
Morse’s bill would make it more difficult to form Local Improvement Districts, and would make it easier for property owners within the districts to object to their formation. It’s partly in response to a 2011 incident in which the East Side Highway District in North Idaho sought to form three LID’s to pay for more than half a million dollars worth of road-paving costs, and property owners who objected to their individual shares of the cost vehemently opposed the move. Though they didn’t meet the standard set in state law of having two-thirds of property owners object by the date of the hearing, county commissioners overturned the district’s decision to form the LIDs in the face of the protests.
“It was too high of a burden,” Morse said. His bill changes the two-thirds requirement to 50 percent, and allows more time for objections. It also requires a cost-benefit analysis before the formation of an LID to determine if increases to property values in the district as a result of the work exceed the costs to landowners. Under current law, he noted, an LID could charge an amount up to the market value of the property. Morse, a longtime real estate appraiser, said, “I’ve encountered it on and off for 20 or 30 years.” He worries that the current law “allows LIDs to saddle owners with debt that can extinguish the equity in their property.”
Morse told the committee, “If you do not provide benefit to the property owners, then you should not be able to force that on the property owners. So this amendment will require more planning and more study in the LID formation phase … so you're not going to put more liability against them than the enhancement they derive from the LID process.” Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, said, “I see some real value in this, and I’d like to have a hearing on it.” The Rev & Tax Committee voted unanimously to introduce the bill, clearing the way for a full committee hearing on it. Morse defeated four-term Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, in last May’s GOP primary election.