Thursday, April 04, 2019

House Bill 302 Prohibiting Cities And Counties From Regulating Housing Design Still Has Life

***Resolution Creates Study Group***

Georgia Rep. Vance Smith, a Republican Pine Mountain, north of Columbus, has not given up his efforts to prohibit cities and counties from regulating design standards for one and two-family residential properties.

House Bill 302, which Smith authored, did not make it out of the House Rules Committee during the just-completed session of the General Assembly.

On March 21, however, Smith introduced House Resolution 591, which states that local residential design requirements “infringe on an individual's private property rights and consumer's choice of building products” and “add an unnecessary burden of higher costs to the individual homeowner.”

The resolution, which passed the full House on March 29, creates a House Study Committee to examine the “problems” of local design standards and "recommend any action or legislation which the Committee deems necessary or appropriate.”

Oconee County’s two representatives, Houston Gaines from the 117th House District and Marcus Wiedower from the 119th, voted in favor of the resolution, as did Spencer Frye from the 118th in Clarke County.

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution opposing House Bill 302 and the identical Senate Bill 172 in February, and commissioners were outspoken in opposition to them, saying they violated home rule.

Gaines And Wiedower Comments

“We regularly approve study committees to look into various issues,” Gaines said of his vote on House Resolution 591, which passed 118 to 46.

Smith From Screen Capture At Hearing 3/6/2019

“While we had concerns about HB 302, I believe a study committee is a reasonable action to further look into this issue,” Gaines continued. “My hope is that we can ensure Oconee County--and the entirety of our district--can be heard during this process.”

Wiedower said “It is commonplace for study committees to be granted to legislators as they look into changes to Georgia code. With the failure of HB 302, a study committee was requested to further examine the issue.”

I had offered Gaines and Wiedower on Monday the opportunity to comment on their votes, and they replied via email on Tuesday.

Both are Republicans.

House Bill 302

House Bill 302 remains alive in the House and can be taken up again in January of 2020 when the General Assembly reconvenes. The same is true for Senate Bill 172, which also never made it out of committee.

The proposed legislation states that “No county or municipal corporation shall adopt or enforce any ordinance or regulation relating to or regulating building design elements as applied to one or two-family dwellings.”

The bill listed the “building design" elements of one or two-family dwellings that cannot be regulated by local governments.

These were exterior building color, type or style of exterior cladding material, style or materials of roof structures or porches, exterior nonstructural architectural ornamentation, location or architectural styling of windows and doors, including garage doors, the number and types of rooms, the interior layout of rooms, and types of foundation structures approved under state minimum standard codes.

Exceptions were made for historic districts or landmarks, regulations that are a requirement of applicable state minimum standard codes, the regulation of manufactured homes consistent with code for such homes, or ordinances adopted as a condition of participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.

The bill was amended to make exceptions as well for overlay districts.

The bill enjoyed the support of home builders and realtor associations.

Oconee County was targeted in discussions of the bill because it has greatly restricted the use of slab foundations, over the protests of builders.

Resolution Details

House Resolution 591 creates a “House Study Committee on Workforce Housing.”

It states that there is a “proven need for workforce housing in the State of Georgia” and “the mandatory state building codes and local amendments to such codes provide clear direction to local officials, builders, and the general public on the methods and materials required for the construction of safe and reliable structures.”

The local “requirements of residential design mandates exist outside the realm of building integrity and have no connection to the safety and welfare of the citizens of Georgia,” the resolution states.

The resolution states that the Committee “shall undertake a study of the conditions, needs, issues, and problems mentioned above or related thereto and recommend any action or legislation which the Committee deems necessary or appropriate.”

House Resolution 591 creates a Study Committee of five members of the House of Representatives appointed by Speaker David Ralston.

The Committee is to be abolished on Dec. 1 of this year.

Authors Of Resolution

Smith was joined by four Republicans and one Democrat in authoring the resolution.

The Republicans were Tom McCall of Elberton, John Corbett of Lake Park in Lowndes County, Jon Burns of Newington in Screven County, and Dale Washburn of Macon.

The sole Democratic sponsor was Calvin Smyre of Columbus.

McCall and Burns had joined Smith as a sponsor of House Bill 302.

Frye from Clarke County’s 118th House District had been a sponsor of House Bill 302 but was not a sponsor of the resolution. Frye is a Democrat.

Gaines’ 117th House District and Wiedower’s 119th House District include parts of Clarke County as well.

In the final vote on the resolution, 32 Democrats and 14 Republicans voted against.

The House has 75 Democrats and 104 Republicans, with one seat vacant.

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