Municipal design review rules would all become voluntary under the legislation, and developers in Idaho couldnt be told to make structural changes in proposed buildings for aesthetic reasons.
Weve got to allow participants in a market to act like a market, to reflect choice, Rep. Ed Morse, R-Hayden, told the Idaho House Local Government Committee.
His comments followed more than two hours of testimony. Cities, local planning officials and architects opposed the bill, while business interests including the Idaho Retailers Association backed it.
On a divided voice vote, the panel approved House Bill 480 and sent it to the full House for debate.
The measure is the latest version of a concept Morse has been working on for some time, initially spurred by the city of Boises design review requirements on a 650-space state parking garage under construction near the Capitol in a designated historic district of mostly residential buildings.
Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur dAlene, thanked Morse for bringing the bill.
I have several commercial buildings in the town that I live in, said Sims, a car dealer. She said one is more than 40 years old but has had four additions; the other is 4 years old, and shes faced substantial costs due to city requirements.
Ive had to add 643 feet of sidewalk that nobody has ever stepped a foot on; theres no sidewalk leading to it or leading from it, Sims said. I have 20 trees that shade absolutely nothing. I have grassy swales that take up 20 parking spaces.
Pam Eaton, lobbyist for the Idaho Retailers Association, said, I think we have to trust businesses, that they want whats best for their community.
Opponents of the bill said city design rules protect values that local communities decide are important.
If you take design review away from my city, it would hurt downtown business owners who desire a beautiful and safe environment for their business, said Brian Billingsley, planning and zoning director for the city of Caldwell.
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.
The bill also requires that all requirements be clear, ascertainable and not based on subjective considerations.