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Controversial design-review bill dies a quiet death in Senate committee

Controversial House-passed legislation to trim Idaho cities’ power to regulate building design has died a quiet death, after passing the House in late February. The bill, HB 480, won’t receive a hearing in the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee, Chairman Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, said today.

“I certainly respect personal property rights,” Siddoway said. But he said the measure would have destroyed the ability of local communities to plan for how they want their town to develop, including those who, like Victor, opt for a downtown theme. “To take away that call from the locals is not a good Republican principle, to me,” Siddoway said.

He said in Victor, a small city in eastern Idaho, the town has long had a western theme. “So they work with their property owners to try to put a western theme on the front of their shops and stores,” he said. “And they can’t get these themes accomplished without having the local planning authority to do that.”

The bill, proposed by Rep. Ed Morse, R-Hayden, was opposed by cities and architects across the state. Morse said cities shouldn’t regulate subjective issues like beauty or appearance when it comes to development on private property. “We need jobs and economic development in this state much more than we need the planning police mandating their vision of beauty,” he told the House.

The bill would have made design review requirements voluntary, preventing cities from requiring changes in proposed buildings for esthetic reasons. It still would have allowed cities to impose design requirements in designated historic districts, and for signage, lighting, landscaping and screening. The bill allowed for regulation of surface finishes, but not structures. It also required that all requirements be “clear, ascertainable and not based on subjective considerations.”

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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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