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