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Judge allows bonds, payments to developer in Harris Ranch CID to move forward while lawsuit continues

An Ada County judge wasn’t impressed with arguments from a group of Harris Ranch residents hoping to pause the issuance of bonds and the collection of a special form of property tax until their lawsuit concludes. 

Judge Nancy Baskin allowed the Harris Ranch Community Infrastructure District to go ahead with a $7.1 million payment to the community’s developers – LeNir Ltd. and Harris Family Limited Partnership. She also declined to stop the issuance of $5.2 million in new bonds on the project approved in October 2021. This means that while the lawsuit continues, taxes in the Harris Ranch CID will continue to be collected, and developers will continue to be paid to build out amenities. 

This is the latest in a long-running dispute between the Harris Ranch CID Taxpayers’ Association, made up of residents of the planned community, and the community infrastructure district over the constitutionality of the special taxing district established in 2010. CIDs, which were allowed under an Idaho law passed just before Harris Ranch was created, allow the collection of additional property tax to pay for roads, amenities, and other infrastructure to support a growing community. 

City of Boise taxpayers are paying to fight the lawsuit, with a fund of $250,000 in city funds.  The city says the tab would be reimbursed by the CID. The CID is funded by taxes collected from residents of the Harris Ranch taxing district.

The Harris Ranch CID Taxpayers’ Association’s lawsuit arguing against the payments to the developer and the bonds issued by the CID will continue. This is the first time any CID in Idaho has been legally litigated since the law was changed, allowing the special taxing districts in 2008. This means there is no existing case law on this specific issue for the attorneys or judge to draw upon. The results of this case would set a precedent for future cases on CIDs down the road. 

Baskin: No irreparable harm

A central point of contention between the Harris Ranch Taxpayers’ Association, the CID board, and the developer in the lawsuit has been whether or not the residents of the district will suffer “irreparable harm” if the court allows the bonds to be issued and payments to be sent out to the developer. 

During a May court hearing, neighbors argued they would be harmed by these payments moving ahead before the legality of the payments could be settled in court. The CID said stopping the payments would hurt the developer and the residents themselves. Attorneys for the district cited the recent decision from the Idaho Supreme Court in the Planned Parenthood Great Northwest against the state of Idaho related to abortion legislation that found in order for a stay to be issued those fighting a law must prove both irreparable harm and a likelihood that their court case will succeed. 

Baskin sided against the neighbors, noting that they would have to prove a likelihood of success as well as irreparable harm from the payments. But, she didn’t even get that far in analyzing their arguments. 

She said the evidence provided by the taxpayers’ association that residents would be irreparably harmed mostly came in the form of statements from one of the taxypayers’ association’s leaders, Bill Doyle, who has experience in municipal finance. Baskin wrote that “conclusory statements offered by a party to the litigation” offers “little value” in a debate over whether these payments will harm residents irreparably or not. 

“The core of the issue is this: the harm that the appellants claim is that the homeowners in HRCID will be asked to pay additional taxes. The appellants do not offer any persuasive argument that the HRCID, the City of Boise, or the (developer) in this case, would be unable to reimburse the taxpayers for any money paid during the pendency of this action which this Court may find were unlawfully collected.”

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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