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Mini-cassia
At one point, only 65 homes were for sale in Mini-Cassia. Developers have a lot more coming

BURLEY — Hundreds of new homes, duplexes and apartments are being built in Mini-Cassia to house scores of workers flooding to the area to fill jobs in new or expanding businesses.

The lack of available homes for sale or rent isn’t a new problem, said Doug Manning, Burley’s economic development director. But its now at the forefront because businesses say they’re having to turn away workers who can’t find housing.

“It’s a problem we have, but a good problem to have because if we didn’t have it, it would mean we were dying on the vine,” he said.

Several developments underway could soon ease the tight housing market.

An apartment complex with 80 units is under construction on south Hiland Avenue and other developers are looking at locations for another apartment complex with 50 to 80 units, Manning said.

Three new subdivisions in south Burley are in the engineering and review phase.

“I wish I could snap my fingers and have them all done because it would help with the labor market,” Manning said.

The city’s unemployment rate is hovering around 2 percent.

Southern Field Welding recently hired nine welders, but seven of them ended up not taking the jobs because they couldn’t find housing in Mini-Cassia, said Blake R. Hollingsworth, the company’s general manager.

Tony Morley, Heyburn city administrator, said he often hears from people in industry and from Realtors that people can’t find affordable homes in the area.

As new housing options continue to pop up across the area, the number of existing homes for sale continues to lag.

“The inventory of houses for sale is lower than normal,” Joe Farfan, an agent with Century 21 Riverside Realty, said. “It’s definitely a seller’s market.”

Multiple Listing Service has 85 residential homes for sale in Burley, Rupert, Heyburn, Paul, Oakley, Albion and Malta between $50,000 and $500,000.

MLS does not count the number of homes for sale by owner or those listed on Zillow, an online company that competes with the real estate companies for listings.

In the past, an average number of homes would have been 150 to 200 and sometimes as high as 300.

“It seems like every year since 2014 the inventory has dipped,” Farfan said.

At the lowest point, Farfan noted there were just 65 homes for sale.

At least five people a day come into Farfan’s office for his company’s free list of rental properties.

The rental market in Mini-Cassia has remained strong and most homes that are in good condition with comparable rents, go quickly, he said.

“They rent faster in today’s market and for more money than a few years ago,” he said.

Morley said this week the Heyburn City Council passed the preliminary plat for a new 48-unit apartment complex.

“We have a huge backlog of residential projects that we’re trying to get off the ground,” he said. “It’s exciting and staggering at the same time.”

Several duplexes and fourplexes under construction.

“We have really steady growth taking place,” he said.

Rupert City Administrator Kelly Anthon said there are seven subdivisions with 200 units under development in his city.

“Those subdivisions have a variety of housing options,” he said.

Anthon said the need for more housing came on the tail of 120 new jobs added in the city in the past three years.

Economic development, he said, occurs in phases: First comes industry and business, then housing and retail.

Rupert has added $17 million to its tax base this year, which lowered the city’s levy rate, Anthon said.

Businesses are boasting free health care on their marquees trying to lure employees, and the median wage in the area has gone from $25,000 to $35,000 a year.

In his years as city administrator and as the city’s attorney for 10 years prior to that, Anthon has never seen that kind of growth in the city.

“The growth is really historic,” he said.


If you do one thing

If you do one thing: The Buhl Harvest Festival will be held from 2 to 9 p.m. at Broadway Avenue and Main Street in downtown Buhl. Free.


DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS  

Gooding’s Sam Funkhouser (24) stiff-arms Kimberly’s Alan Palmer (85) during their conference matchup Friday night, Sept. 29, 2017, in Kimberly.


Local
Coalition director aims to confront hate in rural Idaho with lecture Sunday

TWIN FALLS — Over the past few years, voices have risen up in Twin Falls against refugees, bringing the city into the national spotlight again and again.

First a movement against refugees, and later a sex assault that got spun into fake news, painted an unflattering image of rural Idaho.

Now, a local group has reached out to an Idaho coalition and asked it to provide anti-discrimination training in Twin Falls. On Sunday, United Vision for Idaho will present a lecture it hopes will help stop the escalation of hateful language in the city.

“We have to all stand up to racism, in all its forms,” said lecturer and United Vision for Idaho Executive Director Adrienne Evans.

Evans, who described Twin Falls as a “haven for white nationalists,” said she became acutely aware of anti-refugee language escalating during the 2016 presidential election. She believes President Donald Trump’s “hate speech” regarding immigrants has emboldened others to speak out, too.

“This kind of rhetoric is not appropriate,” Evans said. “It’s not normal. It’s not acceptable.”

United Visions for Idaho is a coalition of 40 nonprofits throughout the state with a common goal to advance justice on myriad issues such as immigration, health care and raising the minimum wage. The coalition has delivered its anti-discrimination lecture to 800 Idaho students and 400 Idaho leaders in more than a year.

The coalition designed “The Spiral of Injustice” program in partnership with the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, home of the Idaho Anne Frank Memorial. The program, as part of the lecture, will walk people through the stages of discrimination: language, avoidance, discrimination, violence and elimination.

The “Words Matter” lecture will also cover how people can, as individuals and collectively, disrupt these cycles.

The presentation takes place at 4 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, 209 Fifth Ave. N.


News
18-year-old Nevada battle over US forest road may be over

RENO, Nev. — One of the nation’s longest-running court battles over local property rights and ownership of national forest roads may have finally come to an end in Nevada to the delight of environmentalists.

A federal judge in Reno ruled against rural Elko County this week — again — and closed the 18-year-old case stemming from a sometimes volatile feud over the road in remote wilderness near the Idaho line.

“For nearly two decades, Elko County has tried to claim ownership of a road that belongs to the American public,” said Michael Freeman, a staff attorney for Earthjustice representing The Wilderness Society and Great Old Broads for Wilderness.

“We hope this ruling will finally bring this long-running case to an end,” he said.

The case has spanned four presidential administrations.

It began in 1999 when the Clinton administration filed suit against then-Nevada Assemblyman John Carpenter, one of the leaders of a “Shovel Brigade.” They had vowed to rebuild a washed out road near threatened fish habitat along the Jarbidge River in defiance of the government. Carpenter and one of his lawyers, Grant Gerber, have since died.

The county claimed it owned the road under a Civil War-era law that granted state and local governments’ rights of way to existing roads in places where national forests and parks later were established.

The so-called “R.S. 2477 roads” — named after the statue number — became a lightning rod for property rights advocates and anti-federal forces in the 1990s, with similar court battles in Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Oregon and New Mexico.

Like other cases, the federal government denied Elko County’s claim it owned the road before the Humboldt National Forest was established in 1909.

But the Nevada case is unique because, despite the government’s position, the Forest Service signed an agreement with the county in 2001 that said it wouldn’t challenge the county’s alleged right of way.

Conservationists cried foul, accusing the government of kowtowing to protesters who paraded through downtown Elko with 10,000 shovels in protest and fostered a hostile, anti-federal environment that eventually prompted local Forest Service supervisor Gloria Flora to resign.

They said the government had no authority to cede control of U.S. lands in violation of laws protecting the threatened bull trout.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal twice overturned lower court rulings allowing the agreement to remain intact and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Elko County’s appeal in 2008.

But the latest ruling by Judge Miranda Du — a year after she made a similar ruling — could finally be the end of the road for the Shovel Brigade.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt joined the county’s argument that the agreement was within the government’s authority under the U.S. Constitution to enter contracts to settle disputes.

But Du said the 9th Circuit has made it clear the government’s authority to settle litigation “stops at the walls of illegality.”

“Contrary to Elko County’s argument, the Department of Justice does not have authority to ignore federal law in settling quiet title actions against the United States,” she wrote Monday.

Elko County District Attorney Tyler Ingram declined comment but has asked the county commission to consider at its Oct. 4 meeting whether to file another appeal.

Alison Flint, a lawyer for The Wilderness Society, said the ruling is limited to technical legal issues related to Elko County’s specific claim.

But “it stands for the important proposition that the United States cannot give away our public lands by recognizing a meritless right of way claim through a settlement agreement,” she said.