FAYETTEVILLE -- None of the three state House members at a forum Friday supported a bill to stop cities and towns from regulating building design. None of the more than 50 audience members spoke up for the bill either.
"Local control means local authorities need to set the standards," said Rep. Megan Godfrey, D-Springdale, at the forum hosted by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. She was one of three House members from Washington County attending the 4 p.m. forum at the Fayetteville Public Library: Reps. Nicole Clowney and Denise Garner, both D-Fayetteville, and Godfrey.
The lawmakers were asked about Senate Bill 170 by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs. The measure passed the Senate on Wednesday and is before the House. It would prohibit city regulation of matters of home construction appearance such as size, placement and "architectural styling" of windows, doors and garages. It would also reduce cities abilities to set minimum square footage and standards for decorative building material, among other things.
Supporters of the bill say such standards set by cities are an impediment to affordable housing. Matt Hoffman, chairman of the Fayetteville Planning Commission, attended the lawmaker's forum Friday and raised the issue. Hoffman said after the meeting the bill would do nothing to encourage more affordable housing and would instead make any affordable housing built less desirable and safe. Hoffman also noted the bill would specifically allow private property associations, historic districts and other entities tending to form in wealthier neighborhoods the authority it would deny to cities.
Local authorities know local conditions and requirements, Hoffman said. They should set standards suited to their location and conditions, he said.
"I am opposed to this bill," Clowney said. If the Legislature wants to encourage the building of more affordable housing "there are a million better ways to do it." The claim this bill would result in more affordable housing is proving to be a persuasive to other lawmakers, however, she said. Any counterargument bill opponents could provide would be valuable, she said.
On other issues, the three lawmakers discussed Senate Bill 149 which also passed this week. The bill would ban abortion in Arkansas if and when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down state prohibitions against abortion.
The House debate on the measure "is going to be exhausting," Godfrey said. "Even now I'm bracing for the backlash coming for me." She said she will raise the issues of the harm this will do to women and the voices of those who would bear the brunt of this bill's effects haven't been heard enough in the debate so far. The efforts of her and others to include those voices will not be appreciated by the supporters of the bill, either in the Legislature or the public, she said.
NW News on 02/09/2019