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The Design Review Process: The Boise City Design Review Committee

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Every new commercial building-- and most exterior improvements to existing buildings--in the downtown area are subject to the design review process. This process generally involves three steps:

1. Design review--The schematic design is submitted for approval, usually by the architect on behalf of the owner. The Design Review Committee (DRC) reviews the design within the context of the specific ordinance requirements. If the project is denied, the applicant can appeal the decision to the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission.

2. Planning and Zoning approval--The project is submitted for approval by the P&Z department.

3. Building permit--The completed construction drawings and specifications are submitted to the Building Department, Public Works Department and Fire Department for review and approval within the context of the adopted construction and life safety codes. This process typically takes six to eight weeks. After completing their review of the submitted documents, the city issues a list of items that the applicant will be required to address or correct on the documents before the building permit can be issued.

The purpose of the design review process is threefold: to protect property rights and values, promote environmentally friendly design and ensure that the overall appearance of structures complies with city ordinances. It is also responsible for ensuring that new buildings do not infringe on the aesthetic value of existing buildings.

Much of the DRC's work directly impacts the daily lives of Boise residents, too. The DRC will not approve a design, for example, until it is satisfied that adequate landscaping and pedestrian accessibility has been incorporated into the final plan. Though the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) oversees issues related to automobile traffic to and from a business, the DRC ensures that the building's parking and/or parking lots meet city codes for size, landscape ratios and ingress/egress points.

Citizens should be aware they have a voice in the design review process. The DRC encourages anyone who has strong feelings about a proposed project, whether positive or negative, to attend hearings and give public testimony. It is not uncommon for public input to become a condition of the design review approval.

The Boise City DRC is comprised of up to eight individuals appointed by the mayor. They serve three-year terms.

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