Letters From the West

Morse sponsors bill that would require property owners be compensated when zoning reduces value

Idaho Republican Ed Morse has sponsored a bill that he says will expand private property rights in Idaho.

The bill, HB 160,  would revise the Idaho Regulatory Takings Act by requiring a local government like a city or county to compensate a property owner if a law cost them 50 percent or more of the value of the property. If the local government doesn’t want to pay up, it has the option of rescinding the law.

The bill, which will face a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee is similar to Proposition 2, the statewide initiative on regulatory taking that was opposed widely by a coalition that included then-Gov. Jim Risch and then-U.S. Rep. Butch Otter.

Ed Morse is a Republican State Repesentative and businessman from Hayden

Ed Morse is a Republican State Representative and businessman from Hayden

The conservatives and the Idaho Realtors Association, all who are usually identified with private property rights advocacy, led the campaign against the initiative that fell to voters by a 3-1 margin. They were joined by environmentalists, city and county leaders and other land-use regulators who are concerned first about growth and quality of life.

They were able to convince voters that the protections of property value and the community values that make life worth living would be threatened by Proposition 2.

They looked to the experience in Oregon, where a similar initiative passed in 2004. Since it passed, more than 3,000 claims totaling more than $5 billion had been made, forcing local governments to waive their zoning rules for lack of money.

Oregon eventually rewrote the law.

The Idaho Regulatory Takings Act was passed in 2003 to make sure that private property rights were considered in new zoning and land use planning laws. It required decision-makers to analyze the effect their regulatory actions have on property owners.

Only if a regulation prevented any use of the land would a property owner be due compensation under the U.S. Constitution,  the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 ruled. But Morse’s bill would elevate that to 50 percent.


Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West