Boise County, Idaho files for bankruptcy

Boise County, Idaho filed for bankruptcy this week. In this case, the county is not struggling to pay its bondholders, but was found by a court to be in violation of a federal law.

The county owes a housing developer $6.2 million after a court found the local zoning commission put too many restrictions around a building project for a treatment facility for troubled teens. In December a federal judge ruled the action constituted discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and found in favor of the developer. Boise County (which is, despite its name, not home to the state’s capital) with a budget of $9.4 million has recently raised sewer fees, and claims the debt will need be paid off over a 20 year period but needs federal bankruptcy protection to come up with a plan to pay it. That plan will involve higher taxes, a county official notes, “every property tax owner in the county will have to pay a share of this debt.”

The project in question, Alamar Ranch, was the subject of alot of local discussion when it came before the Boise County Planning and Zoning Commission. Some residents were in favor of the facility because it was shown that it would create jobs. In addition, the facility’s mission is to help troubled teens, a project with many positive benefits for society. Other residents worried that the facility would lead to local crime, introduce traffic, and constitute another expense for the local government. Opponents to the facility, it is claimed in legal documents, swayed the local zoning commission to block construction. Residents interviewed see it differently.