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Eye On Boise

House backs limiting Idaho cities’ design-review authority, decries ‘planning police’

Afternoon light shines through the dome over the Idaho House chambers (Betsy Russell)
Afternoon light shines through the dome over the Idaho House chambers (Betsy Russell)

After a long debate, the House has voted 50-17 in favor of HB 480, the bill to trim Idaho cities’ design-review authority. To become law, the bill still needs Senate passage and the governor’s signature; you can read my full story here at

“Markets should allow choice,” Rep. Ed Morse, R-Hayden, told the House, opening debate on his bill. “We need jobs and economic development in this state much more than we need the planning police mandating their vision of beauty.”

While making design review requirements voluntary, the bill still would allow cities to impose design requirements in designated historic districts, and for signage, lighting, landscaping and screening. Cities also could still require conditional-use permits for some developments, and the bill allows regulation of surface finishes, though not structures. It also requires that all requirements be “clear, ascertainable and not based on subjective considerations.”

Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise, said he’s had emails from cities and architects all over the state opposing the bill. “This bill gives anyone the right to build pretty much anything they want,” he said.

Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, said, “These are property rights issues, people. We’d better be careful.”

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said, “I think the remedy, if someone is dissatisfied with a city design review ordinance, is to run for city council. That’s why we have local government.”

Rep. Cindy Agidius, R-Moscow, said in her district, a developer incurred big expenses because regulators made him move a heating unit just for esthetic reasons. It “ended up costing him a fortune,” she said. She said things have gone so far that she’s had “city council trying to tell people what color they’re going to paint the inside of the house.”

Rep. Terry Gestrin, R-Donnelly, said, “I don’t feel this bill goes nearly far enough.”

In the 50-17 vote, all House Democrats voted "no," as did four House Republicans: Reps. Clow, Hancey, Miller and Raybould. All other House Republicans voted "yes," except for three who missed the vote.

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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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