Monday, September 19, 2022, marked another entry in the Twin Falls city council meeting schedule and was another demonstration of how this council routinely circumvents laws meant to protect citizens and overrides the desires of the governed.
Socialism Alive & Well in Twin Falls
You may recall from last week’s meeting recap that the council attempted (and failed) to shortcut the normal procedure for enacting a new city ordinance by reading only the title of the ordinance only once and then passing it immediately. The ordinance in question would shift responsibility for city utilities from renters to rental housing owners (landlords). In other words, if you own a property that you rent out in Twin Falls, the city council wants to make you personally responsible for your renters’ utility bills. If you didn’t read about last week’s meeting, you should click here before you read on. Since the council failed to get the requisite five votes last week to immediately pass the ordinance, they should have had to read the title of the ordinance again this week, followed by a reading of the entire ordinance at a subsequent meeting.
Enter the bureaucrats.
When the time came for this item to be addressed again, assistant city manager Mitch Humble and another city official both chimed in to remind the council that they could (should they wish) attempt to immediately pass the ordinance again (the same trick they tried last week). This led councilman Jason Brown to speak up, saying that he hadn’t fully understood the ordinance last week and that his objections to it had been in error. Since the vote last week was narrowly defeated by only one vote, this signaled to the rest of the council that they could call for the vote to immediately pass the ordinance because they would now have the votes. What was councilman Brown’s defense of his change of heart? He said it was difficult but that ultimately, it’s the city’s job to make sure utility bills are paid.
Let me restate that: the issue is that utility bills aren’t being paid by renters, so instead of enforcing existing laws to collect debts from those who are delinquent, the city council instead will force landlords to pay for their renter’s delinquent bills. Mr. Brown acknowledged that the problem is that the city can’t collect on renters’ delinquent bills and then went on to say that rental housing owners should be footed with those bills.
Councilman Spencer Cutler voiced his concern that rental owners would be stuck with high bills since renters could now safely assume their bills would always be paid by their landlords. In answer, a city employee gave vague references to some future date in which a new form of digital water monitors could let the landowners know if their bills were going to be higher in real-time. Setting aside the obvious concern that having the city government closely monitor your water usage raises, these reassurances were tied to no timeline, nor were they specific or even direct. It was vague, pie in the sky promises to assuage the nay votes.
In the end, Vice Mayor Christopher Reid motioned to shove the ordinance through, newly appointed councilwoman Alexandra Caval seconded, and the vote was 5-1-1. Only councilwoman Nikki Boyd voted no, and Spencer Cutler abstained. If you own rental property in Twin Falls, you may want to consider selling. If you rent property in Twin Falls, get ready for your deposits to go way up and for a significant rent increase in the next year. To read the proposed ordinance, click here.
The Avenues Update: No Forced Historic District for Homeowners
In a small bit of good news for those of you living in the corridor of downtown, Twin Falls designated “The Avenues,” assistant city manager Mitch Humble gave an informational presentation about the change in plans from making the Avenues a historic district to allowing individuals living in the corridor to apply to have their house listed as a historic property. Both options are bad, but at least with the new approach, you will have to actively apply to have your house annexed into an overly controlling homeowners association. By way of background on this: the Avenues are a few streets in downtown Twin Falls that were being considered for the creation of a historic district. This would impose an automatic homeowners association on all the homes within the boundaries of the declared historic district – essentially, any change you would want to make to your own property would need to be approved by a semi-governmental committee. Luckily, this option was abandoned, and instead, homeowners in the corridor can now apply to the city to make their home a historic property, should they want the government to have a say in every change they may want to make to their home in the future.
The last bit of business on Monday night was a public hearing to address the annexation of (yet another) property into the city of Twin Falls. An owner of a piece of property that fronts Eastland but is in the county was requesting for his property to be annexed into the city and wanted the zoning for his property to be such that he could build multiple housing units on the property. At least twelve of his neighbors appeared at the hearing to voice their concerns that the property be rezoned (if annexed) to restrict what could be built on his property to only a single-family dwelling. The neighbors were concerned that he would build four duplex units, thereby increasing the traffic to their neighborhood and causing a potential eyesore to their community. After the overwhelming public outcry asking that the city allow the annexation but just change the zoning of the property so that multiple units could not be built on it, the council voted 5-2 to grant the property owner’s request to annex the property and allow as many units as he could fit on the property.
Only Vice Mayor Chris Reid and councilman Cutler voted against it.
If you live in Twin Falls and you don’t attend or view these meetings, I highly recommend you do. You can watch any past meeting as well as a live feed of the current meetings on the city’s website, but I encourage you to show up in person because it shows the council that people are paying attention to their votes.
Meetings happen every Monday at 5:00 pm at City Hall and are open to the public.