As written HB 302, (and SB 172, the senate version) is the “Bring Blight to Your City Act”. It employs state overreach as an antidote for local government overreach. Apparently, in some quarters of the state legislature, two wrongs make a right. Certainly, there’s a more rational means of addressing the issue. The rub with local jurisdictions overreaching is that the ordinances infringe on individual property rights. The rub with HB 302 overreach is that it infringes on individual property rights. By allowing structures that are essentially tar paper shacks to be constructed anywhere zoned for single-family and two-family houses, and by allowing any exterior building color, the bill potentially reduces the marketability of neighboring houses. Strange as it may seem, some people would not purchase a house if the one next door, or throughout a neighborhood, were painted purple with yellow trim, or pink polka dots. or any number of “Day Glow” colors.
The bill ignores the potential consequences of allowing any exterior color and other provisions that potentially lead to the devaluation of adjacent properties in the overwhelming majority of residential neighborhoods. Yet it allows local governments to enforce ordinances and regulations in historic districts or if a building has been designated a historic landmark.
HB 302 also allows local governments to enforce ordinances and regulations if they are, ”a requirement of applicable state minimum standards”, if an ordinance is a requirement of applicable state minimum standard codes, or if an ordinance or regulation is adopted as a condition of participation in a National Flood Insurance program. All of which indicates that the bill’s sponsors see a legitimate need for local governments to have some capability to enforce regulations and ordinances relating to building design elements.
While the bill specifically prohibits local governments from regulating or enforcing building design standards, it recognizes the importance of state minimum standards, provides no means for any type of enforcement of those standards. That infers that enforcement, if there is any, is to be done by state agencies. Yet these agencies have neither the budget, the personnel nor the desire to be the enforcement arm of 159 counties and 538 incorporated cities. With no enforcement, there is no mechanism to assure that one-family and two-family buildings are safe, durable and inhabitable. Without such a mechanism, blight is just around the corner.
If state representatives and senators are truly interested in protecting property owner rights, as opposed to pandering to builders and developers, they will rewrite HB 302 and SB 172 to do just that.