by Gary Taylor and Allison Arends
Section three of the Smart Planning legislation creates the Iowa Smart Planning Task Force. The task force provision was targeted for elimination through amendments to the original bills by Republican House and Senate members on the grounds that it represented an expansion of government. The final version inserted into the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure appropriations bill kept the task force, modified somewhat its membership, and provided a sunset date for the taskforce of December 2012. It is required to meet at least four times before November 15th, 2010 and prepare a report with recommendations consistent with the Iowa smart planning principles for the governor and general assembly by that date. Considering this is a little over 7 months away, and the task force has yet to be convened, it should prove a challenge to develop a set of recommendations that reflect careful deliberation by a diverse membership.
The task force consists of twenty-nine voting members and four ex-officio non-voting members. The task force is heavy with state agency representation. Fourteen state agencies are represented: (1) the department on aging (2) the department of economic development (3) the secretary of agriculture and land stewardship (4) the department of cultural affairs (5) the department of public health (6) the department of management (7) the department of natural resources (8) the department of workforce development (9) the office of energy independence (10) the department of transportation (11) Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division of the Department of Public Defense (12) Rebuild Iowa Office (13) the state building code commissioner, and (14) the utilities division of the department of commerce. The other 15 voting members consist of experts in areas of real-estate, land development and residential construction, and representatives of local and regional governments, including the planning departments of Iowa State University and the University of Iowa, the League of Cities, the State Association of Counties, the American Planning Association, American Institute of Architects, Iowa Association of Regional Councils, school administrators, and representatives of small cities and counties and large cities and counties. The four ex officio non-voting members will be one Democrat and one Republican from the House of Representatives, and one Democrat and one Republican from the Iowa Senate.
The task force will be staffed by the department of management, which may seek assistance from the Iowa Association of Regional Councils. In addition, the department of management is required to “seek funding to support municipal comprehensive planning in this state.” We will have to monitor progress on this directive.
As they appear in the bill, the duties of the task force are to:
a. Consult land use experts, representatives of cities and counties, agricultural and environmental interests, urban and regional planning experts, reports or information from the local government innovation commission, and all other
information deemed relevant by task force members.
b. Solicit information from the general public on matters related to comprehensive planning.
c. Evaluate state policies, programs, statutes, and rules to determine whether any state policies, programs, statutes, or rules should be revised to integrate the Iowa smart planning principles under section 18B.1.
d. Develop statewide goals for comprehensive planning that utilize the Iowa smart planning principles under section 18B.1, and develop recommendations for a process to measure progress toward achieving those goals.
e. Evaluate and develop incentives to conduct local and regional comprehensive planning, including but not limited to state financial and technical assistance.
f. Develop a model for regional comprehensive planning within the state and recommend partnerships between state agencies, local governments, educational institutions, and research facilities.
g. Review municipal comprehensive plans to determine the number of such plans that address the hazards identified in section 18B.2, subsection 2, paragraph “k”, and the adequacy of such plans in addressing those hazards.
h. Develop a set of recommendations that is consistent with the Iowa smart planning principles under section 18B.1 and that does all of the following:
(1) Coordinates, facilitates, and centralizes the exchange of information related to state and local planning, zoning, and development between state agencies and the general assembly.
(2) Coordinates discussions concerning a proposed geographic information system between the producers and the users of such systems.
(3) Allows the efficient production and dissemination of population and other demographic statistical forecasts.
(4) Creates a centralized electronic storage location for all comprehensive plans adopted under chapter 335 or chapter 414.
(5) Facilitates the cooperation of state and local governments with comprehensive planning, educational, and research programs.
(6) Provides and administers technical and financial assistance for state and local comprehensive planning.
(7) Provides information to local governments relating to state and federal resources and other resources for comprehensive planning.
These duties seem to fall into two broad categories, (1) facilitate and promote comprehensive planning and smart planning at the state, regional and local levels, and (2) streamline the gathering and dissemination of planning information (both the information used in developing plans, and information about the plans themselves). Only one duty directly addresses hazard mitigation (see g. above), but these two broad themes clearly reflect many the recommendations of the Governor’s Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission and the Water Resources Coordinating Council. Common themes in the discussions following the 2008 floods included the need for better information about flood hazards and risks, the need for information on the development taking place throughout the watershed, and the need for better watershed-based planning models. In many states that have moved toward smart planning, information centralization – including land information systems, demographics, and economic data – has been an important component of the process.