Bill limits local rules on topsoil, storm water drainage

DES MOINES — A bill headed to the governor would only let local governments have topsoil and stormwater regulations that are tougher than state rules if the city covers the extra costs.

Senator Mike Webster, a Republican from Bettendorf who works in the construction industry, says building regulations should be based on life, health and safety issues.  “I don’t build retention ponds. I build houses,” Webster says. “Some of the regulations that come from cities currently…put 24 inches of topsoil on ground that didn’t even have that. (It’s) thousands and thousands of dollars in added expense for somebody just trying to build a house.”

Critics say the bill would prevent local officials from responding to flooding issues. Senator Janice Weiner, a Democrat from Iowa City, says the state legislature should stay out of it and let county and city officials make these decisions. “I’m not worried about parking lots. In the end, I care about people’s homes and townhomes. I care about the ability of people, of fellow Iowans to have dry basements.”

The bill won Senate passage a year ago. Earlier this month the bill failed in the House, but four days later wound up passing 53 to 46. On Monday, Senate Republicans accepted an adjustment the House made in the bill and gave it final legislative approval.