The state House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee took a second crack Wednesday at a bill that’s created a significant amount of political heat between localities and homebuilders. House Bill 302 would prevent a number of specifications localities currently have the ability to impose regarding the look of one- and two-family dwellings.

It previously passed out of the committee Feb. 20, was withdrawn Monday and recommitted, where it was tabled until Wednesday morning’s hearing. The committee members agreed to hear it by an 11-5 vote.

“The way I look at that, and the way the bill’s drawn now — we went back and made a couple of amendments,” said state Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain and the bill’s lead sponsor. “We put zoning back just as it was in the very beginning. We’re not touching zoning, and never were touching zoning, we were just trying to clarify, but we put it back.

“We also created the overlay districts, which you can go in and lay out that overlay district, have the people in that area of the overlay sign a petition — if you have 50 percent plus one, they do what they want to do in that district. We didn’t touch HOAs or historical.”

He added that a property owner who’s abided by the building codes and zoning ordinances should be able to have control over their residence’s color, room layout, window placement and the like.

Committee Vice-Chairwoman Susan Holmes, R-Monticello, said she wanted local control, and worried that this legislation if enacted would have a detrimental effect on communities, especially rural ones.

“I’m just so disturbed by this, y’all,” Holmes said. “Having been in local government for 12 years, I have been there. I have been from a little city that was absolutely pitiful and dying and dreadful looking, to having those guidelines which were very reasonable, that our local government voted for. See, it makes such a difference in my little city of Monticello, and I’ve also seen what has happened in Madison, Thomasville, Gainesville — cities around the state — Jackson. Cities in my area are just so upset by this, I just get calls and texts and emails about, ‘Please don’t let this bill pass.’”

State Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, R-Douglas, said he would like to see the bill move forward — that it’s not necessary to hold it in committee since if people truly have a problem with it, it can be stopped later on its legislative journey.

“There’s still a pretty rigorous conversation that happens in a rules committee to try to get it to the floor, and then there is a huge debate,” LaRiccia said. “And so what I’ve tried to consider in this is that this is the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, and we get to just be one more part of the conversation of a much more complicated discussion that will happen on the floor, if he’s even able to make it there.

“I don’t — and this is just Dominic — I don’t see enough encumbrance or burden on the locals in this because it is not related to any of the building codes, it’s not related to any of the structural integrity, the safety, it is just kind of about telling the taxpayer that you don’t have to use a certain type of shingle. Or, you don’t have to have a certain type of facade or a decoration on there, because all of that stuff is very expensive.”

The bill passed by a vote of 9-7 and moves on to the House Rules Committee. Today is the crossover deadline, however, and it was not on the initial Rules calendar. There is a Rules meeting at 9 a.m. and supplemental Rules calendars can be expected. If H.B. 302 does not pass the chamber today, it will not have the possibility of moving again until next year.

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