‘Donut holes’ & ‘taxation without representation’: New Idaho law impacts CIDs – including Harris Ranch and future areas

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The Idaho Legislature made a pair of changes to the state’s community infrastructure district statute, both involving Boise’s Harris Ranch neighborhood.

The Harris Ranch CID was established in 2010, and is designed to allow developers to build out certain public infrastructure and get reimbursed through bonds paid for by an extra property tax on residents.

But Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise, wanted to fix a pair of issues that arose from Harris Ranch. One longstanding and another that just cropped up.

[Some Boise homeowners pay hefty extra tax while neighbors don’t: How Idaho’s largest CID works]

Mmmm…. no donuts

The Harris Ranch CID covers significant property in Boise’s Barber Valley. But there are several parcels carved out, meaning a few parcels are surrounded on all sides by property paying extra tax, but they’re exempted.

In one instance, properties were carved out of the CID, but still included homes and followed the development’s overall street grid pattern. While the Harris family and LeNir Ltd. developed the overall project, a sliver of land inside the development was sold to Boise Hunter Homes before the CID was formed. Community infrastructure districts must hold a vote that hits a 2/3rds threshold to be implemented. By carving out the Boise Hunter properties, they did not have to vote – and also did not have to pay the tax, nor did homeowners who later bought the properties.

Boundary of the Harris Ranch CID. Via City of Boise

In another instance, the Harris family also left two properties they own out of the CID – both include single-family dwellings that are part of the original Harris family homesite.

Greene wanted to change this for any future CIDs, though Harris Ranch and others already established will stay the same.

“Twenty-seven homes at the get-go were not included in the district, including a particular property that was the original property owner had removed their home out of that CID,” Greene testified on the house floor last month. “As a result… they do not pay the CID tax but walk on the same sidewalks and drive on the same roads.”

Taxation without representation

The other change has to do with who sits on the board that oversees the CID. Currently, each CID board is made up of three city council members, or, if a CID is in a county and not a city, three county commissioners.

But 2020 legislation required Idaho’s largest cities – those over 100,000 residents – to begin electing council seats by district.

“We happen to have a Community Improvement (sic) District within my district and, we’ve had a couple changes in the past couple years,” Greene said. “The legislature required the City of Boise redistrict. And as a result, the CID board is largely represented by individuals who are not elected by the electors there in the CID District.”

[Election with few voters could mean nearly $1 billion in debt & interest for future residents]

Currently, this is not correct – but could be if the law is not changed. The Harris Ranch CID board is made up of city council members Holli Woodings, Patrick Bageant and Elaine Clegg. Bageant and Clegg were elected at-large by Boise voters in 2019, including those in Harris Ranch, before the new council district law went into 2effect. Woodings was elected in 2021 a council district that does not cover Harris Ranch. However, after elections next year, it could be possible that the CID would have three council members sitting on it who do not represent the folks who live in the CID.

The law would require the CID board to still have three members. But instead of three at-large city council members, it would require the board include the city council member whose council district overlaps with the CID to sit on the board. A second member would now be a homeowner who lives in the district and the third member would still be an at-large member of the council.

[Harris Ranch residents sue over infrastructure district payments in escalating fight]

“This legislation says that if you are in a CID, you get to be represented by someone who is actually accountable to you,” Rep. Ilana Rubel, R-Boise said on the house floor. “So this rectifies a current taxation without representation problem. It is about getting representation for the people who are in these CIDs.”

The lobbyist for the Harris Ranch development appeared at a House Ways and Means hearing and told the panel the developers were consulted on the legislation, and were neutral.

Woddings, who subbed in for Rep. Chris Mathias for part of the session in the House, noted that she’s on the board and Boise City Council during debate on the House floor and raised some questions.

“We are not sure how we would select the citizen to join the CID board,” she said. “This adds a bit of logistics on our end, and potentially a little bit less for reimbursement for projects in the CID because there will be additional overhead for our city administration to oversee all these processes.”

She said she was “not debating  for or against, but I offer just a little bit of clarity.” Ultimately, Woodings voted in favor of the new law.

The House passed the law across party lines by a vote of 59-9. The Senate gave it the go-ahead 29-5. Gov. Little signed it into law on March 24th. It takes effect July 1st.

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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