Boise & Garden City

Boise could bypass new urban-renewal law to build library, stadium without vote

Boise officials might change the way the city would pay for the proposed new main library and sports stadium to avoid putting the projects on the ballot this November. Boiseans could vote on them anyway.

Mike Journee, the spokesman for Mayor David Bieter, told the Statesman on Wednesday that the city is considering, among other options, looking at a budget for both projects that would end the projects’ partial reliance upon property tax revenue from urban renewal districts.

“It’s all still in early considerations,” Journee said in a phone interview.

A state law enacted this year requires a public vote if the cost of a municipal building or a major remodel exceeds $1 million and is funded by at least 51 percent non-federal public money that includes any amount of urban-renewal money. The law could cover both projects, although that remains unclear.

If the city succeeds in excluding urban-renewal money, those elections would not be necessary. But Boise still faces the prospect of separate elections on the projects, because a citizens’ petition may put the library and stadium on the ballot.

If the city opts to use urban-renewal money, Boiseans possibly could face as many as four ballot measures — two for each project — because the citizens’ initiatives are unrelated to the new urban-renewal law. Asked if each project could appear on the ballot twice, Journee said that is “a big hypothetical.”

“There’s a whole lot of variables to be determined,” he said.

stadium 1.jpg
Atlanta developer Greenstone Properties wants to build a stadium for soccer and minor-league baseball that the city of Boise would own. This artist’s rendering shows how it might have looked at its original proposed location on Americana Boulevard just southwest of Downtown. The current proposed site is a half-mile northwest of this. Statesman file

The Statesman asked Wednesday to interview Bieter about the city’s evolving plans to pay for the projects, but Journee said he was not available.

Journee said it was too early to say where the money would come from for either project if their budgets were reworked to not use urban-renewal money.

The library would cost up to $85 million, and its most recent plans called for using about $15 million in urban-renewal money to fund a new parking garage. It would replace, and would be built on the South Capitol Boulevard site of, the existing main library.

The stadium would cost an estimated $50 million and would be paid off with increased tax revenue from the surrounding 30th Street urban-renewal district and more than $1 million per year in stadium lease fees paid by tenants.

The stadium would be located between Main Street and Fairview Avenue on Whitewater Park Boulevard and would be the new home of the Boise Hawks baseball team as well as a new professional soccer team.

Bieter said Friday in a radio interview with KBOI-AM 670 that he saw a “route forward” for the stadium, although he did not expand on why he thought that. He also said that he thought the library would be able to move forward without a stadium bill-related vote.

The citizen petitioners, who call themselves Boise Working Together, submitted more than 7,000 signatures by Tuesday’s city deadline to get the library and stadium on the ballot. Ada County has 60 days to verify that the signatures came from registered Boise voters. Each measure needs 4,962 valid signatures to go before voters in November.

Boise Working Together says it wants Boiseans to have a vote on the projects because of their cost, sizes and locations.

The law takes effect July 1. When asked if the city may try to push the projects through before that deadline, Journee said he didn’t think so but wasn’t sure.

Urban-renewal districts are created by cities to help restore blighted areas. During the years an area is a designated urban-renewal district, existing taxing districts, such as schools, cities and counties, continue to collect whatever taxes they collected within the district’s territory when the district was formed, but no more. Any new property-tax revenue — known as the “tax increment” — resulting from new development or higher property values goes to the district to be spent on public improvements to foster development.

In the case of the stadium, the city has not yet received an official proposal from Greenstone Properties, the Atlanta developer that is working with the city. Todd Dvorak, a Boise publicist representing Greenstone, said Wednesday that he was unable to comment on any new potential funding considerations or what they mean.

Related stories from Idaho Statesman

Hayley covers local government for the Idaho Statesman with a primary focus on Boise. Previously, she worked for the Salisbury Daily Times, the Hartford Courant, the Denver Post and McClatchy’s D.C. bureau. Hayley graduated from Ohio University with degrees in journalism and political science.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.