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Eye On Boise

Bill to curb urban renewal killed after committee hears extensive opposition

After nearly two hours of testimony, the House Local Government Committee has overwhelmingly rejected HB 135, a proposal from Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, to require a city-wide or county-wide vote before any urban renewal agency could establish a new revenue allocation area within its district; you can read my full story here at Urban renewal officials from Boise, Twin Falls and elsewhere spoke out against the bill, saying it posed serious legal and functional problems for urban renewal districts in their operations. Lobbyist Ken McClure told the committee, “This is the kind of thing that will severely impact the ability to attract the next Chobani.” McClure said, “I think HB 135, in many cases, will be the exact reverse of the incentive you are looking for for building a vibrant business community in Idaho.”

The Idaho Chamber Alliance was among those testifying against the bill; the onlye group speaking in favor was the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, said, “When I ran for office, people asked me what I wanted to accomplish, and I said one of those things is to not make bad law. And I think this is bad law.”

The bill was killed on a 4-9 vote; the only committee members supporting it were Sims and Reps. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens; Steven Harris, R-Meridian; and Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, the committee’s chairman. Barrett asked, “Why do you not want to vote? Is that not what America is all about?”

Barbieri said, “I understand that urban renewal allocation districts is one of the few tools, but it has become primarily used to avoid the vote that’s otherwise necessary for bonding of cities.” He made the unsuccessful motion to pass the bill to the full House.

After the vote, the committee agreed at Barbieri’s request to hold his bill, HB 136, in committee; it had been next up on the agenda. The move kills the bill for this legislative session. That measure would have made extensive changes to Idaho’s local land-use planning laws, including requiring any comprehensive plan changes to be approved by voters; making the state’s land-use planning law apply only in cities and counties that opt in to use it; and requiring, in those cases, that a property rights council be established to review all planning and zoning decisions.

The panel then voted unanimously, with no debate, to pass HB 137, Rep. Luke Malek’s bill to remove an obscure clause from existing law that allows an urban renewal district to enter private homes within the district to make inspections.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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