The House Local Government Committee voted this afternoon to kill an AIC-opposed bill that would restrict cities’ ability to annex.
House Bill 127 was sponsored by Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star and Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian. The bill would have required consent from a majority of the land area and a majority of the landowners in order for a Category B annexation to occur.
“Annexation is a good thing—it’s how cities grow and how services are provided,” Rep. Harris said. “But let’s do it with landowner consent. The rights of cities shouldn’t trump private property rights.”
Outstanding testimony in opposition to House Bill 127 was provided by AIC Counsel Jerry Mason and Emmett Planner Brad Clark representing the Idaho Chapter of the American Planning Association.
“Modern communities don’t just happen by chance,” said Mason. “They happen because they are planned. Idaho’s Local Land Use Planning Act requires cities to plan for future development and extending services and infrastructure. We have billions of dollars of investment in physical infrastructure that serves over 1.1 million Idahoans who live in cities.”
Mason likened Idaho’s local government structure to a “three legged stool,” with cities, counties and school districts each playing an important role at the local level. “The beauty of this system is that it is most cost efficient for taxpayers. Counties provide a basic level of local services: roads, law enforcement, landfills, property tax assessment, courts and jails. Schools educate children. And cities provide the services necessary for urban communities. In this scheme of things, county taxpayers don’t have to pay for urban services.”
“If those who object to annexation are able to freeze a city’s boundaries at where they are today,” Mason noted, "we have to understand that growth won’t stop. As the area continues to grow, you’re now calling upon counties―who are already stretched to provide services with limited revenues—to provide an urban level of services and infrastructure.”
Committee members had many questions about potential manipulation of the number of landowners, how consent would be provided by partnerships and other joint ownership situations, and the potential ability of a few property owners to frustrate a neighbor developing their property.
Brad Clark noted that annexation has become a potent symbol in the minds of some, but urged committee members to look deeper into the rationale behind Idaho’s annexation policy. “Cities use annexation authority responsibly and judiciously,” Clark said.
Rep. Gary Collins, R-Nampa, who was involved in an annexation task force in the early 2000s that developed the current law, said he has “been a critic of annexation and the procedures. I still feel there are some things that could be corrected. But I have a number of questions about this legislation. I personally do not feel that it would be a step forward.” Collins’ motion to hold the bill in committee was approved on an 11-1 vote, with Rep. Kathleen Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene the only “no” vote.
We extend our appreciation to all the city officials who communicated with legislators on House Bill 127. Your grassroots engagement is a key part of AIC’s legislative success.