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House committee rejects tighter rules for urban renewal districts

Fri., Feb. 15, 2013

BOISE – An Idaho House committee overwhelmingly rejected legislation from state Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, Thursday after urban renewal officials from around the state said it would cripple their economic development efforts.

Sims’ bill, HB 135, sought to require a citywide or countywide vote before any urban renewal agency could establish a new revenue allocation district. In nearly two hours of public testimony on the bill, only the Idaho Freedom Foundation supported it; among those opposing it was the Idaho Chamber Alliance, representing chambers of commerce across the state; and Chobani Yogurt, which built a huge Greek yogurt plant in Twin Falls that opened in December and is among the state’s largest and most successful urban renewal projects.

Ken McClure, lobbyist for Chobani, told the House Local Government Committee, “This is the kind of thing that will severely impact the ability to attract the next Chobani.”

Opponents said the bill posed serious legal and functional problems for urban renewal districts in their operations. It was rejected on a 4-9 vote. Among North Idaho lawmakers on the committee, Sims and Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, supported the bill, while state Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, voted against it.

Sims has long been a critic of Coeur d’Alene’s urban renewal district.

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