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Former Boise councilman planning to take stadium ordinance to Idaho Supreme Court

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Posted at 5:57 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 19:57:47-05

BOISE, Idaho — A former member of the Boise City Council says he will ask the Idaho Supreme Court to overturn Boise’s new stadium ordinance.

Scot Ludwig, who left the council Jan. 7 after opting to not seek re-election, said Wednesday that he plans to file a request for a writ of mandamus in the next few weeks. A writ of mandamus, or mandate, directs a government entity to correct actions believed to be illegal.

The ordinance became city law after more than 75% of voters approved it in November. It prohibits the spending of more than $5 million in public or private money on a stadium without a citywide election. Ludwig, a lawyer and a part-time developer, has said for months that the restriction on private spending is unconstitutional.

The ordinance made it to the ballot after Boise Working Together, a community group, gathered more than 5,000 signatures from registered Boise voters to get it there. A second Boise Working Together-drafted ordinance, requiring a similar election for spending on a new library costing $25 million or more, also passed.

Brian Ertz, the group’s lawyer, said repeatedly through the initiative process that the stadium ordinance is constitutionally sound as written. He was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

“I totally support the spirit of both the stadium petition and the library one,” Ludwig said in a phone call Wednesday. “I’m not interested in pursuing the library one. My concern is private property rights.”

Former Mayor David Bieter championed the baseball and soccer stadium that was proposed by Greenstone Properties, an Atlanta developer in which Chris Schoen is a partner. Schoen is a co-owner of Boise’s minor league Boise Hawks baseball team.

Schoen had hoped to build the stadium on mostly empty land just east of Whitewater Park Boulevard and between Main Street and Fairview Avenue on the West End. He abandoned that plan after Bieter lost and voters passed the election ordinance.

Like Bieter, Ludwig favors the stadium. He said by email that he is “confident that Project would bring the cultural, sports and economic benefits a City with Boise’s vibrancy deserves.”

Mayor Lauren McLean reiterated Wednesday that a stadium is not a priority for her. In a meeting with local news reporters, she said it was “a priority for an old administration for 16 years” and said she would not spend city dollars on it.

In response to questions later from the Idaho Statesman, she said in a text message shared by a city spokeswoman that a court challenge wouldn’t change that.

“Any challenges to Prop 2 in the courts will not impact my priorities, which — based on the election — reflect the priorities of the vast majority of our community,” McLean wrote.

Ludwig said in an emailed statement that he’s not filing the writ for any reason other than his concerns about property rights.

Ludwig cofounded Ludwig Shoufler Miller Johnson, a Boise firm, in 1994. He was appointed to the Boise City Council in early 2015 by former Mayor David Bieter and won re-election in November of that year with 70% of the vote.

He was also on the board of the Capitol City Development Corp., Boise’s urban-renewal agency, until he resigned less than a week after he left the council this month.

It’s possible the stadium could still be built. Ada County is considering the future of its Expo Idaho site in Garden City where the Hawks now play in the aging Memorial Stadium.

A Boise spokesperson for Schoen was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Check out Haley Harding's story on the Idaho Statesman.