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House panel overhauls urban renewal legislation

House panel overhauls urban renewal legislation

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
February 24, 2010
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
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February 24, 2010

Idaho’s urban renewal law would receive an overhaul under a total of seven bills being hammered out in the Smith subcommittee of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.

Tuesday, the subcommittee, led by Rep. Leon Smith, R-Twin Falls, heard from the bills’ sponsors, and from citizens who came to Boise from as far as Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls to lend their support or opposition to the bills.

House Bills 570, 572, 569, 568, 571, 578, and 567, are attempts to amend the existing law to allow for, among other changes, public elections of urban renewal district board members, reducing the geography of a city that can be included within a URA from 25% percent to 15% percent, reducing the lifespan of Urban Renewal Agencies (URA) from 24 years to 12, opening the URA planning process to the public public, and providing for public discussion.

Rep. Dennis Lake, R- Blackfoot, chairman of the House Revenue and Taxation committee, said the subcommittee’s job at this time is to review all seven bills, decide what should be kept and what should be discarded, and hammer together a single bill to offer to the full committee.  “What the committee was trying to do this (Tuesday) morning was get a handle on what’s out there, what are we really looking at.  It is sausage making at its best, and it’s not a pretty thing.  You sit down and say this section is acceptable and no, this section isn’t, and then you go over to a good bill writer, and they write you up a bill.  We’ve got some smart people on this committee, and we’ll see what they come up with.  I’m optimistic.”

Urban renewal district officials and concerned citizens from all corners of the state traveled to the Capitol to voice their concerns about the legislation.  Former Coeur d’Alene city council candidate Dan Gookin was concerned about HB 572, part of which would limit urban renewal agencies to three members.  “If an election is county-wide, it will result in smaller communities having an urban renewal agency board with no members who actually live in that community.”

The subcommittee will meet again Wednesday, Feb 24  Feb. 24, at 8:30 a.m., to continue taking comments from concerned citizens.

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