Gavel

BOISE — A judge has thrown out the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s lawsuit against the city of Boise over urban renewal.

On Friday, Judge Lynn Norton in 4th District Court dismissed the libertarian-leaning think tank’s lawsuit it filed in January alleging Boise’s two newest urban renewal districts violated the Idaho State Constitution. Norton struck one of IFF’s amended complaints from the record, finding that more than a dozen plaintiffs were invalid, and dismissed the case entirely.

IFF argued in its suit that urban renewal agencies allowed cities to circumvent the constitution by taking on debt through an urban renewal agency — avoiding the requirement for two-thirds voter approval. Initially, the plaintiffs consisted of only IFF leadership and other Ada County taxpayers concerned about the issue, but it was later expanded to include residents of the Blue Valley mobile home park located in the Gateway East urban renewal district.

The basis of Norton’s decision to dismiss the case came from the 2009 Idaho Supreme Court case Rexburg v. Hart. In this case, a resident sued the city because he did not believe revenue allocation financing through the urban renewal agency was a legitimate way to fund a project. The court ruled in the city’s favor, finding that urban renewal agencies are not “alter egos” of cities and their borrowing funds without consent of the voters does not violate the constitution.

IFF spokesman Dustin Hurst said his organization will continue to fight what it views as abuses of urban renewal funding statewide, but could not give details about their future plans.

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“Obviously we disagree with the court’s findings and we’re disappointed that they chose not to allow this case to continue,” he said. “... I can’t say where this is going to go one way or the other, but we will always continue in our attempts to rein in urban renewal abuses, which is what the Boise city is doing at the expense of taxpayers.”

This is not the first time IFF has lost in court. In January, the group argued before the Idaho Supreme Court that Medicaid expansion was unconstitutional and was quickly ruled against. It also filed suit in 2016 alleging the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which oversees some standardized testing in Idaho is unconstitutional, as well as the Boise School District over a contract with the teachers union in 2015. Both of those suits were dismissed.

In her ruling, Norton also found that a second amended complaint filed by IFF on April 1 should be struck from the official record because they did not get the proper written permission from the city of Boise to file it.

She also ruled the addition of 11 new plaintiffs, including the Blue Valley Tenant Association and several other residents of the park, who were added in mid-March, be removed from the case because they were added long after the 30 days since the original suit was filed. Norton wrote in her decision that IFF did not provide any explanation for why they were added.

“All I can say is we did what we thought was best,” Hurst said, “and the court disagreed with us.”

Margaret Carmel covers the city of Boise. Follow her on Twitter @mlcarmel or reach her by phone at 757-705-8066.

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