Cory Dickard

Melba Mayor Cory Dickard

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The Melba City Council unanimously voted June 21 to enact an emergency moratorium on development within the city, following consideration and passage of similar moratoriums in other Treasure Valley cities.

The moratorium could last for up to 182 days, though council members expressed hope that issues would be resolved sooner rather than later.

Monday’s action occurred mainly as a response to concerns about the city’s lack of regulation. Due to its small population and limited growth in the past, Melba does not have a subdivision ordinance in place, resulting in added complication as developers seek opportunities to build within city limits.

City officials are in the process of developing a subdivision ordinance, which would establish legal procedure, and impose set regulations on developers regarding subdivision layout, spacing, street regulation and more. They hope to have this ordinance completed soon, but believed moving forward without regulation to be too risky.

City officials are also keeping HB 389 in mind, a new tax bill signed into law by Gov. Brad Little on May 12. HB 389 restricts Idaho cities’ abilities to tax developments and annexations, and caps property tax budget increases at 8%.

Melba, with a current population of less than 600, is likely to grow at a rate higher than 8% in coming years, causing concern that the city budget will hit the cap too soon and won’t be able to generate enough from taxes to make up for the growth. Council members shared their confusion about the bill, stating they would need time to more closely consider its implications.

Due to these changes and uncertainties, Melba City Council agreed at the June 21 meeting that city officials need more time to prepare next year’s budget and approve a subdivision ordinance before proceeding with development. City staff members are currently waiting on guidance from Canyon County and the State Tax Commission on how to move forward under new legislation.

Last month, Caldwell approved a similar moratorium after an hour and a half of council discussion, and both Nampa and Meridian recently deliberated the consequences of allowing development to continue, though no action was taken. Smaller cities such as Emmett, Kuna and Star have monitored the reactions of larger cities to determine their own courses of action.

The meeting was open for public comment, and several Melba residents shared their thoughts. One fourth-generation resident said he believed growth would bring local businesses and resources to sustain infrastructure, and also hoped the city could maintain its small-town essence.

“This moratorium absolutely needs to happen,” he said.

Jon Stosich, a Melba resident who has been in the process of developing his land since it was annexed in 2006, spoke to his own experiences. He hoped the council might consider excluding approved applications like his from the moratorium, especially those already on the tax payroll. In support of his position, he claimed the developments would bring in good people, a comment that made one woman in the audience shake her head.

Another woman believed the moratorium to be a wise choice, hoping the pause would give city staff time to create a clear vision for how to direct the inevitable growth.

“Growth can be a good thing, and Melba does need more growth,” she said.

Another resident agreed, saying he believed the positive impacts of growth on Melba’s schools and businesses would outnumber the negative.

Residents also expressed their concerns about Melba’s water and sewer systems, to which Mayor Cory Dickard and City Engineer Mike Davis responded, sharing that the city recently completed a two-phased wastewater system upgrade and increased the water storage capacity. This curbed concerns, but did not eliminate worries that too much development could compromise wells outside city limits.

“There are still a lot of questions and not a lot of answers” said Marc Bybee, Melba’s city attorney.

City officials hope the moratorium will provide enough time to answer these questions, approve a subdivision ordinance and workshop budgets in preparation for the new fiscal year.

Sadie Dittenber covers Melba for the Kuna Melba News. She is a senior at The College of Idaho studying international political economy.

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