Bill to trim Idaho cities’ design-review powers killed

BOISE - Controversial House-passed legislation to trim Idaho cities’ power to regulate building design has died a quiet death in a Senate committee, 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, told The Spokesman-Review 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 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 before members voted 50-17 in favor of the bill.

HB 480 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 mandated that all city requirements be “clear, ascertainable and not based on subjective considerations.”


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