Local governments shouldn’t weigh in on the appearance of houses, according to some Georgia lawmakersGeorgia's state Capitol building. Credit: Kelly Jordan
By Maggie Lee
A group of Georgia legislators and their homebuilder-supporters say local governments shouldn’t have the right to regulate how houses look.
House Bill 302 proposes that except in a few circumstances, local government should not regulate “building design elements” on one- and two-family houses.
Those “elements” include exterior color and materials, roof pitch and material, window and door placement, porches and ornaments.
The exceptions are for homes in homeowners’ associations and homes in a variety of historic zones or designations, including the National Register of Historic Places.
“I asked myself how far do we go? When do we stop with additional restrictions … how are they affecting private citizens and private property rights?” said state Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain, presenting his bill at at the state Capitol on Wednesday.
About a half-dozen homebuliders or homebuilder lobbies came to speak for the bill, saying that local aesthetic regulations drive up home prices.
But Lilburn Mayor Johnny Crist said fellow mayors he’s asked about it can’t believe the idea.
“The reason our cities are the places you want to live is because of design standards,” Crist said, saying aesthetics are part of what make a city interesting and attractive to new residents.
Folks representing other city and county governments came to speak against it, saying 302 takes away local control and that rules on appearance protect property values.
“Citizens, not special interests, should make decisions about the look and feel of the communities that you all represent,” Tom Gehl of the Georgia Municipal Association told a panel of state House representatives.
Gehl pointed to communities’ “comprehensive plans,” which set guidelines on things like where growth and development will occur and what it will look like.
“These aren’t just whimsical plans,” said Gehl. “These are plans that are done with extensive, extensive community input.”
It’s not clear that lawmakers have feel strongly one way or the other. The bill passed the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee by a 6-5 vote.
It now remains to be seen whether it will get a full House floor vote. It would also need state Senate approval before going to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk.