by Gary Taylor
It looks to be a busy year at the Iowa capitol. A bill has been introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives (HSB 592) in the Rebuild Iowa standing committee by Rep. Tom Schuller (D – Maquoketa) (the companion bill in the Senate is SSB 3096, sponsored by Senator Rob Hogg, D – Cedar Rapids). Labeled “Iowa Smart Planning,” the bill is an outcome of the Green Paper developed last fall by the Rebuild Iowa Office. Officials from RIO circulated the Green Paper to a number of groups and individuals involved in planning and local government to solicit feedback. In addition, Rep. Schuller and Sen. Hogg hosted meetings to discuss issues related to planning and disaster recovery.
The legislation sets forth ten Smart Planning Principles to guide “state agencies, local governments, and other public entities” during “deliberation of all appropriate planning, zoning, development and resource management decisions.” The ten principles address (1) collaboration in development decisions; (2) predictability and fairness in making development decisions; (3) the promotion of clean energy production; (4) increasing job and business opportunities; (5) the revitalization of existing town centers and neighborhoods; (6) encouraging a diversity of housing options; (7) promoting community character; (8) promoting agricultural and natural resource conservation; (9) promoting sustainable design in building and infrastructure; and (10) expanding transportation options for residents.
The legislation states that local governments “shall consider” the smart planning principles when developing and amending comprehensive plans, zoning and other development regulations.
The legislation sets forth guidance as to the contents of comprehensive plans. Broadly speaking, the legislation states that a comprehensive plan may contain
- details concerning public participation in the planning process;
- a detailed description of the existing conditions of the community;
- objectives, policies and programs relating to land use, neighborhoods, housing, public facilities, services and infrastructure, transportation, economic development, agricultural and natural resources, community character, hazard mitigation, collaboration among governmental units, and implementation actions.
The current draft of the bill (as of 1/28) does not require comprehensive planning, nor does it require consistency between the comprehensive plan and local zoning regulations. Again, however, it does say that local governments “shall consider” the smart planning principles when developing and amending comprehensive plans, zoning and other development regulations.
Finally, the legislation would create the “Iowa Smart Planning Taskforce.” The taskforce, with 27 voting members and 4 non-voting members, would be responsible for a number of objectives related to planning at the state and local levels, including developing recommendations for integrating the smart planning principles into government decision-making, and evaluating and developing “methods to incentivize comprehensive planning, develop a model for regional comprehensive planning within the state, and develop recommendations for administration of a state comprehensive planning program that operates consistently with the Iowa smart planning principles.”
After you’ve read the bill please share your thoughts by posting your comments above. Several previous attempts at revising (or more precisely, creating) comprehensive planning legislation in Iowa have failed. Are there provisions in this proposal that you like/do not like? What changes would you recommend? Share your ideas with the tens of readers of this blog!