The Idaho legislature dashed Ada County Highway District’s high hopes of a bill to settle a dispute with Garden City this week.
On Tuesday, the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee killed SB 1106, brought by ACHD, which would have exempted existing highway district “essential facilities” from some local zoning laws. As BoiseDev first reported earlier this week, the bill would have also resolved an ongoing lawsuit between ACHD and the City of Garden City over a permit for a salt shed on Adams Street.
ACHD argues the bill is necessary so they can avoid costly land use disputes and meet their federal requirements. But, cities and counties argued it would take away the power for cities and counties to have a say on what is in their boundaries and criticized the highway district for bringing the bill without trying to find a collaborative solution.
‘Come to a compromise’
Over the course of the two hour hearing, ACHD and all of the other local governments in Ada County who are opposed to the bill made their case against it. Legislators asked detailed questions to ACHD and Garden City’s dispute over the salt shed, if there could be mitigation to bring the salt shed into compliance with Garden City’s ordinance so it can remain on site and other particulars of the approval process.
They also asked ACHD General Counsel Steve Price if this bill would help ACHD resolve the lawsuit, and he said it would. This was a major reason why legislators unanimously held it in committee.
“I think it was clear that if we pass this legislation it resolves the litigation in favor of ACHD,” Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, said. “We have that rule that we don’t resolve litigation by legislation and this feels like one of the most specific examples of that we’ve run across.”
Sen. Mary Souza, R-Couer d’Alene, extensively questioned Price and Garden City Mayor John Evans during the hearing. After Price said ACHD would have to complete some mitigation of the salt shed to comply with the flood plain no matter if the bill was passed or not, Souza said she didn’t see the need for state legislation to resolve the issue.
“You need to sit down and come to a compromise, but I’m not at all convinced we need to be involved in this,” Souza said.