Panel to consider zone system for developments

By Kate Nash: The Santa Fe New Mexican

A measure before the House Taxation and Revenue Committee today
would allow the creation of “infrastructure development zones” that
could issue bonds and have the power of eminent domain.

Each zone would have a board, and the boards would be able to impose
special assessments and fees, as well as issue revenue and special
assessment bonds. The general obligation bonds would have to go to the
voters in the zone for approval.

Projects could include sewer systems, trails, landscaping, natural
gas distribution systems and lighting systems, according to an analysis
of the measure, sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Nambe. He said
a city like Rio Rancho could create a zone to deal with anti-flood
infrastructure improvements.

“It’s one other vehicle people would have available to them to
address a lot of their infrastructure needs or even development in
certain areas of the state,” Lujan said.

To create a zone, a petition would have to be signed by 30 percent
or 200 of the taxpayers in the proposed zone. The application to create
a zone also would have to include a service plan, which would be a
proposal of services for the area, a description of facilities that
would be built and a financial plan and debt schedule.

A public hearing would have to be held on the idea and notification
would have to go to all property owners within the proposed zone
boundaries. A service plan couldn’t be approved if property owners who
own more than 50 percent of the assessed value in the zone are against
it. The zones would become a quasi-municipal corporation and political
subdivision and could be within a city or county or extend into more
than one jurisdiction.

The measure (House Bill 552) is voluntary, Lujan said.

“The people themselves would be imposing themselves this property tax to pay for improvements,” he said.

The zone’s board of directors would have certain powers including
eminent domain for “the purpose of fire protection, sanitation, street
improvements, television relay and translator facilities, and water and
water sanitation,” according to an analysis of the measure. The zones
also would have the power to put up and maintain traffic devices on
streets and railroad crossings. In addition, the zone would have the
power “to finance payment of incremental directional drilling for oil
and gas wells drilled within the (zone),” according to an analysis.

Colorado already uses the zone system, Lujan said. Lawmakers in
Georgia last year proposed changing their state constitution to allow
the zones; the measure was narrowly rejected.

Members of the House Business and Industry Committee approved the
measure at a meeting Sunday. Ten members of the committee voted for it;
Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Espanola, voted against it, and Rep. Andrew
Barreras, D-Tome, was excused.

Rodella said