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Wednesday, July 15, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Urban renewal panel debates elections, project financing…

Hoping to end years of debate and complaints about Idaho's urban renewal statutes, an interim panel is finalizing a reform bill to present to lawmakers for approval this session, reports Lewiston Tribune reporter Bill Spence. The Urban Renewal Interim Committee spent months investigating urban renewal practices in Idaho, took comments from various stakeholders, and reviewed how the tool is used to promote economic development or clean up blighted areas in different communities. Spence reports that after a meeting that went well into the evening last night, the resulting draft legislation proposes three main changes to the existing statutes:

1 - It would give local governing bodies the option to designate urban renewal boards as elected positions. Board members are currently appointed. Regardless of whether they're elected or appointed, the draft legislation also requires board members to be residents of the county where the urban renewal agency is located or operates.

2 - It prohibits urban renewal districts from using tax increment revenues for public buildings like libraries, police or fire stations or city hall improvements, unless approved by a public vote. It also prohibits tax increment financing from being used for "community development" projects like golf courses or parks without a public vote. The committee is still discussing whether a supermajority or simple majority vote would be needed; most committee members seem to be leaning toward 55 percent.

3 - The bill clarifies that the base property value of the district must be reset if an urban renewal plan is modified, so long as that doesn't jeopardize the district's ability to meet any outstanding debt obligations.

Spence’s full report is online here; he reported that the committee still plans one more meeting.

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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