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Idaho Supreme Court Rejects Attempt To Invalidate Boise Urban Renewal Districts

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The Idaho Supreme Court has unanimously ruled against an influential right-wing lobbying group that sought to invalidate two urban renewal districts in Boise.

Leaders for the Idaho Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit against the city of Boise in 2019 after it created two new urban renewal districts near the Boise River and the city’s airport.

They claim the city violated the state constitution by establishing the districts through ordinances and could leave taxpayers on the hook for any debt or legal costs if the city didn’t properly fund a district over its 20-year lifespan.

The leaders say this should have been put to a vote. Idaho’s constitution requires voters to approve debts, like bond issues, by a two-thirds majority.

Urban renewal districts pay for upgrading infrastructure through any increase in property values within a specific district. They don’t collect money if property values stay the same or go down.

The Idaho Supreme Court said the funding system used by these districts does not violate the constitution partially because they might not collect money in a given year.

In the unanimous opinion, Justice Robyn Brody wrote the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s leaders didn’t provide proof that these districts will “inevitably” affect Boise’s budget and lead to higher taxes.

“Rather, the argument appears to be an invitation to speculate about the independent decision-making of City leaders in setting future budgets,” Brody wrote.

“In any event, simply because a decision may affect the City’s budget in the future does not mean it is a liability that must be submitted to voters for approval under the Idaho Constitution.”

Justices didn’t require the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s leaders to pay the city’s attorney fees for technical legal reasons.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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