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AIC-Opposed Legislation Banning Condemnation for Pedestrian, Bicycle Facilities Introduced

Posted By Justin Ruen, Friday, February 6, 2015

The Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee will consider legislation to prohibit cities and other local governments from condemning property for greenbelts and other pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

Senate Bill 1044 is sponsored by Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon.  Similar legislation was narrowly defeated in the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee in 2013, but the makeup of the committee has changed as Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, is no longer on the committee.

The legislation is in response to concerns over Bannock County residents who support the use of eminent domain to join disconnected segments of the Portneuf Greenway.  The City of Pocatello has been clear and consistent in refusing to pursue eminent domain and continues to work toward negotiated agreements with the property owners.

In the 2013 hearing on the bill, Sen. Guthrie characterized bicycle and pedestrian facilities as nice recreational amenities that are not in the same category of essential transportation infrastructure as roads.

City officials are normally reluctant to use eminent domain, and have rarely condemned property for pedestrian and bicycle facilities. 

Boise used condemnation once in the early stages of developing the Boise River Greenbelt, which proved essential in bringing that tremendous community asset to fruition. 

The only other example that AIC can find involves Garden City, where a homeowner’s association requested the city to condemn property needed for a greenbelt bridge across the Boise River as a way of avoiding restrictive covenants placed on disposal of commonly owned property. 

The City of Eagle filed a condemnation action in April 2014 over a path next to the Laguna Point subdivision, but settled with the property owners and the action never went to court. 

Many city officials who are working to build multi-modal transportation networks would dispute the characterization of pedestrian and bicycle facilities as nice, but not as essential as streets.  These are the routes that children take to school, that allow people to access jobs and shopping, and provide recreational opportunities and access to rivers for many Idahoans.   

The Boise Greenbelt is conservatively estimated to carry 65,000 trips per year.  Greenbelts are key to Idaho’s economic vitality, and are amenities that help attract businesses, visitors and new residents to our communities.  Given the rarity with which condemnation has been used for pedestrian and bicycle facilities, we should trust local officials who are elected and accountable to their constituents to act in the best interests of their communities.

We urge city officials to contact members of the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee to respectfully express your opposition to SB 1044.  The members of the committee are listed below.

Chair: Sen. Jeff Siddoway, Terreton  --

Vice Chair: Sen. Dan Johnson, Lewiston  --

                  Sen. Curt McKenzie, Nampa  --

                  Sen. Jim Rice, Caldwell  --

                  Sen. Steve Vick, Dalton Gardens  --

                  Sen. Clifford Bayer, Boise  --

                  Sen. Jim Guthrie, McCammon  --

                  Sen. Elliot Werk, Boise  --

                  Sen. Grant Burgoyne, Boise  --

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