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Idaho House Takes Aim at City of Boise With Design Review Revamp

"This seems to be directed toward the city in which I live, and the city I'm proud of. It's underhanded."


The Idaho House passed a measure Feb. 24 that opponents said takes dead aim at the City of Boise's Design Review Committee.

House Bill 480, sponsored by Hayden Republican Rep. Ed Morse, would, if signed into law, make all city design-review requirements for commercial building voluntary.

Boise Democratic Rep. Matt Erpelding repeatedly questioned Morse during House debate if Morse could provide any specific examples of mandated structural changes that commercial properties had been restricted by.

That's when Morse brought up an issue that Boiseans know all to well: an $8 million, 6-story parking garage that the Idaho Legislature pushed through its 2013 session, displacing a number of historic homes and causing Boise's Design Review and Planning and Zoning commissions to rule that the parking structure was "incompatible with the surrounding area."

"We had an example just last year with the state parking garage," Morse reminded his Idaho House colleagues.

But Morse forgot to remind his colleagues that the 2013 Idaho Legislature pushed back against the City of Boise and moved forward with its garage anyway.

"This seems to be directed toward the city in which I live, and the city I'm proud of," said Erpelding in his debate against Morse's bill. "It's underhanded and it's an example where local control just isn't there."

Democratic Rep. Grant Burgoyne, representing portions of both Boise and Garden City, said a city such as Boise "has to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle."

"There needs to be respect for the idea that property rights are a two-way street," said Burgoyne.

The bill would still allow Idaho cities to impose design requirements for personal construction and in designated historic districts, as well as signage, lighting, landscaping and screening.

Ultimately, the House overwhelmingly approved the bill, sending the measure to the Idaho Senate for its consideration.