After lots of debate this morning, the House has passed SB 1044, Sen. Jim Guthrie’s bill to forbid the use of eminent domain for greenways or trails unless they’re along a public road. The vote was 54-15; the bill, which previously passed the Senate 20-13, now goes to the governor’s desk. Opponents said government rarely uses the power of eminent domain – under which it can seize property and pay the owner fair-market value as determined by a court - for such projects. But both supporters and opponents said the potential for using eminent domain is what makes it possible for government to provide roads, trails, utilities and more – because otherwise, a single landowner could hold up the whole project and demand huge amounts to let it through.
“We really have to work on the art of negotiating and not taking,” said Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, the bill’s House sponsor. “When we operate that way, we build a better bridge of trust between our government and our citizens.”
Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, warned, “A vote on this today may have monumental changes in the way cities and counties design their roadways and their transportation systems in the future. … It’s going to move these potential bike paths to the fronts of properties along roads. It may impact the ability of having detached sidewalks. … I think we could’ve written a better bill.”
Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said, “While I think it’s not the intent of this bill to stop the development of greenbelts and bike paths in Idaho, I think that would be the effect. I’ve done a lot of research, talked to the Association of Idaho Cities, the Ada County people. … I think this bill really could be the death knell for future trails.” She said without the potential for eminent domain, “Any single landowner, anywhere along that path, can bring the plan to a screeching halt.”
Three North Idaho representatives are listed as co-sponsors of the bill: Reps. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls; Eric Redman, R-Athol; and Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene; but none of the three spoke out in today’s House debate.