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State parking garage P&Z exemption bill up for hearing in House State Affairs

Jeff Youtz, director of legislative services, is presenting SB 1192a, exempting a state parking garage project near the Capitol from Boise city planning and zoning requirements, to the House State Affairs Comnmittee. Youtz said the bill was requested by legislative leadership, and might never be invoked, as talks with the city have been going well on a pending design-review issue. Legislative leaders, Youtz said, decided “we need a what-if fallback here in case this goes south.”

Rep. Kelly Packer, R-McCammon, asked, Youtz, “There’s no other option than this to address some of the questions or concerns or time delays? … This seems, I don’t know, a little aggressive in my opinion. … I’m just wondering if there’s no other way for us to be able to address this ongoing dynamic with the city.”

Youtz responded, “I think we’ve got a lot of flexibility to still respond to the city’s request to improve the design up to a point, but we’ve got a budget we’ve got to live within too.” Bonds already have been sold for the $8.9 million project; the state last year took advantage of a low 2.98 percent interest rate.

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, asked, “From a public policy standpoint, why should the government, except in a time of war or national emergency, ever be exempt from the local public involvement process?” Youtz responded, “I don’t set public policy. I guess I’d say that’s a question for you to answer. … Our intent is not to circumvent the local planning process, we intend to go through it. This is just a fallback.”

Youtz said Senate amendments to the bill, limiting it to the block where the garage project is planned rather than the entire Capitol Mall area, and adding a sunset clause making the bill expire in 2014, prompted the mayor of Boise to drop his opposition to the bill and take a neutral stance.

Ross Borden, an aide to Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, told the committee, “I think this situation is going to work out just fine.” Boise City Councilor Elaine Clegg told the panel the state might want to change its procedures in the future to sell bonds for construction projects only after design approvals are secured; that’s a process the city already follows, she said. She also suggested the state might want to look into encouraging car-pooling and alternate means of transportation for state employees rather than just focusing on providing parking.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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