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Eye On Boise

Fri., March 29, 2013, 9:05 a.m.

Senate passes bill to exempt state garage project from city P&Z rules

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, told the Senate that SB 1192a would let the state override the city of Boise’s design review process if appeals can’t be resolved in a timely manner over a proposed state parking garage near the Capitol. “It was not the intent of the state to go around the design standards – in fact, they thought they had designed a building that met the design standards,” Winder said. The bill has been amended so it only applies to the block on which the parking garage is proposed, and it expires in 2014; he said the bill was requested by the state Department of Administration. As originally proposed, the bill would have exempted the entire Capitol Mall area from local planning and zoning requirements, permanently. “Some of us felt like that was going a little too far,” Winder said. “We do have responsibility, we do have accountability within the community.”

Winder said cities do have authority on local planning. But, he said, “That authority comes from the land use planning act that this Legislature passes. So if we give them the authority, we also have the authority to not necessarily override it, but to exempt ourselves from that.”

He added, “This is the last step in a process if they can’t come together sometime in the future. … To keep the process moving and not have to have the delay in cost and time.”

Three Boise senators debated hard against the bill. Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, said it came up at his local neighborhood association meeting last night, and a former Idaho Supreme Court justice was there, and said the bill’s unconstitutional as a local and special law. “I would say when we put in code a specific city block and say what a city may or may not do with that block, we are in direct violation of the Idaho Constitution. … This law is unconstitutional if we pass it, and we should know that that’s the case before we get into it.”

Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, said the state got the cart before the horse by designing and selling bonds for the garage before securing city approval; and Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, urged respect for the three designated historic districts that abut the site.

Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said he didn’t think the bill was unconstitutional. “The Capitol Mall is not the business of the city of Boise,” he said. “It is the business of the citizenry of the entire state to have adequate facilities in the Capitol Mall for the business of governing the entire state.”

Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, said, “I’ve certainly suffered through what I feel are perhaps overreaching regulations in the private sector with my clients on these kinds of issues, but at the same time I believe in local control. … My problem here is giving ourselves an exception when the private sector is required to comply.”

Winder, in his closing debate, said, “This is needed, it is timely and it needs to be moved along.” The bill then passed on a 24-11 vote, and now moves to the House.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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