DES MOINES — At an early-morning public hearing Tuesday, no one spoke in favor of legislation to remove smart planning principles from the Iowa Code.
The House Local Government Committee heard from local government officials who argued against House File 268 and said there is no good reason to remove the principles from Iowa law.
“There is no public benefit in removing the smart planning principles from the code, but there are many benefits in keeping them,” said Bret VandeLune, Polk County planning and development manager and president of the County Zoning Officials of Iowa, which is part of the Iowa State Association of Counties.
Originally introduced by Rep. Dawn Pettengill, R-Mount Auburn, the bill would eliminate smart planning principles and other local comprehensive development guidelines from the code.
Iowa law requires that the 10 principles be considered in making planning, development and zoning decisions. Those principles have been condemned by some Republicans who think they are part of a United Nations-backed Agenda 21 plan to co-opt local government control.
Like VandeLune, two others who spoke against the bill emphasized that the principles are a framework or guideline for local officials and citizens as they discuss development issues.
Offering an “on-the-ground, in-the-trenches” perspective, Carlisle Mayor Ruth Randleman, a former Republican legislative candidate, said that as a taxpayer herself, “I would feel cheated if my elected officials did not wisely anticipate the future needs of my community and address them in a cost-effective manner.”
In her community, Randleman said, the principles have supported improved cost effectiveness in meeting infrastructure needs, improved stewardship of natural resources, better support for the free market, more choices for housing and transportation, promotion of economic development and protection of individual property values.
Elmer Rudolph of Dallas County signed up to speak against the bill but declined this morning. After the 11-minute hearing, he said his opposition was unchanged.
“Everybody had nice things to say, but they can do that whether this is in the law or not,” Rudolph said. “It’s voluntary, and you can do this whether it’s in the code or not. Why have it?”
Rudolph is right that state law “imposes no mandate whatsoever on our cities or counties,” Less Beck, Linn County Planning & Development director, said in written testimony. “Rather, it simply provides a framework for decision-making should cities or counties choose to accept it.
“The Iowa Smart Planning Principles can guide such a discussion; HF 268 seeks to stifle it.”
That there were so few speakers did not surprise Chairman Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who scheduled the hearing at the request of committee Democrats. He was surprised 30 to 40 people attended the hearing.
“This is a small enough issue that I’m surprised so many people showed up,” he said.
The bill is eligible for floor debate.