by Gary Taylor
During the legislative debate over the Smart Planning bill there was considerable discussion about, but no real movement toward making comprehensive planning mandatory for cities and counties. It probably would not make sense to require all Iowa cities to adopt comprehensive plans. 669 of Iowa’s 947 cities have a population of less than 1,000, and unless they are in commuting distance of a major metropolitan area they are not experiencing growth. While it is true that comprehensive planning addresses more than just the issues faced by growing communities, a comprehensive plan that conforms to the 13 elements in the legislation may be overkill for some.
The “stick” of mandated planning was not placed in the bill; however, the legislature directed a portion of the funds from the Revenue Bonds Capitals II Fund (the final monies from the I-JOBS bonding) for use as “carrots” to entice cities and counties to move forward with smart planning. The bill makes $30 million available to the Iowa jobs board “for a disaster prevention program created in section 16.194A for grants for cities and counties that apply smart planning principles and guidelines pursuant to sections 18B.1 and 18B.2, as enacted in this Act.” The bill later provides the specifics about the disaster prevention program envisioned:
16.194A Iowa jobs II program – disaster prevention.
1. An Iowa jobs II program is created to assist in the development and completion of public construction projects relating to disaster prevention.
2. A city or county in this state that applies the smart planning principles and guidelines pursuant to sections 18B.1 and 18B.2, as enacted in this Act, may submit an application to the Iowa jobs board for financial assistance for a local infrastructure competitive grant for an eligible project under the program, notwithstanding any limitation on the state’s percentage in funding as contained in section 29C.6, subsection 17.
3. Financial assistance under the program shall be awarded in the form of grants.
4. The board shall consider the following criteria in evaluating eligible projects to receive financial assistance under the program:
a. The total number and quality of jobs to be created and the benefits likely to accrue to areas distressed by high unemployment.
b. Financial feasibility, including the ability of projects to fund depreciation costs or replacement reserves, and the availability of other federal, state, local, and private sources of funds.
c. Sustainability and energy efficiency.
d. Benefits for disaster prevention.
e. The project’s readiness to proceed.
7. In order for a project to be eligible to receive financial assistance from the board, the project must be a public construction project…with a demonstrated substanial local, regional, or statewide economic impact.
Administrative rules will need to be created that set criteria for determining whether a community is, indeed, applying smart planning principles. The rulemaking process will be an interesting to watch in and of itself.