The Urban Renewal Interim Committee held its inaugural meeting on Monday, August 10th in Boise. The committee was established by the Legislature to undertake a complete study of urban renewal and economic development statutes and make recommendations to the Legislature for potential amendments to state law and the constitution. The committee is co-chaired by Senator Dan Johnson (Lewiston) and Representative Rick Youngblood (Nampa). Senate members include Mary Souza (Coeur d’Alene), Chuck Winder (Boise), Maryanne Jordan (Boise), and Jeff Siddoway (Terreton). House members include Kathy Sims (Coeur d’Alene), Robert Anderst (Nampa), Hy Kloc (Boise) and Lance Clow (Twin Falls).
As the committee listened to presentations from urban renewal experts, proponents, and opponents, it became clear that the committee has two camps: one interested in improving urban renewal to make it a more economic development friendly tool (including adding measures for greater transparency and accountability) and one interested in limiting, and even repealing, urban renewal as an economic development tool.
Brief committee discussion was dominated by three themes: agency accountability/transparency, composition of agency board members, and whether or not public buildings should be built with urban renewal funds. In spite of strong presentations highlighting the lack of economic development tools at the local level, in particular when compared to neighboring states like Utah, there was little constructive committee discussion about how to make urban renewal a more economic development friendly tool. That being said, a number of legislators, including Senator Winder and Senator Jordan expressed a desire to discuss enacting a local option tax in addition to urban renewal reforms.
At the end of the day, AIC anticipates that the interim committee will make modest recommendations including establishing an online portal and requiring urban renewal agencies to upload certain plan, project, and budget documents; imposing a penalty for failure to comply with reporting requirements; clarifying board eligibility (elected vs. nonelected, district residency requirements, etc.); and clarifying what public buildings, if any, can be built with urban renewal funds and whether or not a public vote is needed.
The interim committee has scheduled future meetings for September 21st, October 19th, and November 16th. All interim committee meetings will be held at the Capitol building in Boise. The interim committee does plan on utilizing technology, including video conferencing, to take public testimony from throughout the state. AIC will keep city officials up to date about future meeting agendas and opportunities to provide testimony.
Committee materials, including PowerPoint presentations, are available on the interim committee’s website. Please click here to access committee materials.