The 1,000 Friends of Iowa organization, a membership group which lobbies for wise use of land and other natural resources, is urging its members and other concerned citizens to call their state legislators. "We are concerned about a bill that's making its way through the Iowa Legislature that would remove the Smart Planning and Comprehensive Planning language from the code of Iowa," says LaVon Griffieon, one of the long-time leaders of 1,000 Friends of Iowa.
The bill is House File 45 (HF45). She says "There hasn't been much media attention about the section of this legislation that has to do with land use issues. We urge Iowans to contact their state representative at the capitol in Des Moines and tell them to oppose removing the Smart Planning and the Comprehensive Planning language from the code of Iowa. We also want state lawmakers to support passenger railway funding and to look at reforming tax increment financing, or TIF. Reforming TIF is a way to reduce state spending, to keep more tax money in the general fund of the state of Iowa."
Smart Planning is needed in Iowa for a number of reasons
Griffieon farms with her family at Ankeny, north of Des Moines and their family farm is surrounded by suburban sprawl. She has been very active in 1,000 Friends of Iowa for many years and is well-versed in land use issues and laws pertaining to farmland preservation and land development.
"There hasn't been much press about the section of HF45 which if passed will remove all smart planning and comprehensive language from the code and rescinds all awards to cities and counties applying the smart planning principles," she explains. "In addition to contacting your legislator, write a letter to the editor of your local paper and help us generate much needed public discourse on this very important issue." She suggests you click here to read a recent guest column by Gary Taylor outlining a few of the concerns.
Griffieon adds, "1,000 Friends strongly encourages you to contact your legislator today and tell them to oppose removing Smart Planning and Comprehensive Planning language from the code, to support Passenger Rail Funding and to look at TIF Reform as a way to save the state some money."
Smart Planning is a fiscally responsible alternative to sprawl
The Iowa Taxpayers First Act (HF45) has already been through committee, has had a public hearing and has been voted on in the Iowa House. "There's been plenty in the news about this big bill that lumps so much into one vote," says Griffieon. "What I haven't heard or read about is that hidden in Division VIII, beginning on page 27 or the 59-page budget bill, the smart planning language and comprehensive planning principles are removed from the Iowa code."
Griffieon continues, "We spent much energy, and taxpayer dollars were spent by the Legislature, during the discussion about land use planning in the 2010 legislative session last year, and we finally succeeded in getting smart planning language and comprehensive planning principles into the Iowa code. Now this year, this new bill, HR45, strikes Section 18b (smart planning language) from the Iowa code. Section 18b simply states that cities "may consider" the 10 principles of smart planning when planning for growth and gives 13 principles to guide comprehensive planning for municipalities."
How does smart planning save money for taxpayers?
"Smart planning is the fiscally responsible alternative to sprawl," she says. "It emphasizes maximizing the use of existing and to the extent necessary, new infrastructure, and therefore it is less costly to build, maintain and operate per capita than conventional suburban development. Smart growth principles also emphasize repairing and maintaining existing infrastructure, saving on costs of deferred maintenance and supporting the economic health of existing communities."
Griffieon points out that, "ultimately, using these principles to guide growth and development keeps taxes down and provides a higher return on public investment, all of which translate into personal savings. So if smart planning saves money for taxpayers, why did the Iowa House vote to remove language from the Iowa code that is costing the state, cities, counties or taxpayers nothing? How did the idea get into a bill promoting fiscal responsibility?
For the answer, you'll have to read Griffieon's thoughts in the latest issue of The Land Use Bulletin, a quarterly publication produced by 1,000 Friends of Iowa. Go to the organization's website www.1000friendsofiowa.org and find issue #82 of The Land Use Bulletin and read the rest of the story by LaVon Griffieon.