The Urban Renewal Interim Committee met on December 14th in Boise to discuss draft legislation intended to reform Idaho’s urban renewal laws. The draft legislation can be viewed by clicking here. The Legislation contains the following key changes:
- Consolidate Chapter 20 and Chapter 29 of Title 50 into a single chapter.
- Authorizes a city council to enact by ordinance how an urban renewal commission is appointed and terms of service, including imposing term limits and allowing commissioners to be elected in a general election.
- Establish a central repository for urban renewal plans, maps, and budget documents and imposing penalties for noncompliance, which penalties may include a loss of tax increment revenues.
- Restrict the use of urban renewal funds for public buildings including city halls, administrative buildings, and libraries. As currently drafted, the proposal would allow up to $1,000,000 of urban renewal funds or up to 49% of project costs for public buildings to be covered by an urban renewal agency without a public vote. If urban renewal contributions exceed 49% then a public vote would be required to use urban renewal funds.
- Require the base assessment roll to be reset each time an urban renewal plan is amended.
- Allow aggrieved parties to bring about a class action lawsuit against the urban renewal agency or individual urban renewal commissioners.
The interim committee spent over three hours reviewing the draft legislation and debating among themselves the merits of the concept. After considerable discussion, the interim committee elected to strike Sections 18 and 19 from the draft, removing proposed language allowing class action lawsuits to be brought against an agency or agency commissioners. Committee members also acknowledged that other changes to the draft would be made; however, the committee members did not elaborate on what those changes will be. The interim committee will meet again in early January to finalize their recommendations to the full Legislature. It is important to note that regardless of what the interim committee recommends, the legislation will be required to go through the same public hearing process as other legislation, including consideration by germane house and senate committees, a vote by the full house and senate, and consideration by the governor.
The most concerning element of what is being proposed is language that clarifies the any urban renewal plan amendment requires a resetting of the base assessment roll, thereby eliminating any tax increment that has been realized to that point in time and jeopardizing any outstanding bonds. Requiring the base assessment roll to reset each time a plan is amended will have the effect of preventing plan amendments and eliminate an agency’s ability to respond to unforeseen economic and infrastructure development needs and potentially result in cities turning away new development.
AIC staff and as well as legal counsel for Redevelopment Association of Idaho are currently reviewing the proposed legislation and formulating an appropriate response to the interim committee. We will soon be providing city and urban renewal officials with talking points to be used when engaging legislators. If you have any questions or comments about urban renewal legislation, please reach out to AIC Executive Director Seth Grigg via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (208-344-8594).