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Extreme Makeover: Downtown Driggs Edition!

In 2003, Driggs was a tiny rural town with no rules or guidelines for downtown construction. With the help of VARD and the Downtown Driggs Community Association, the city adopted design standards which provided clear guidance to ensure quality building aesthetics that protect the town’s historic character and charm.  Now, flash forward one decade. Many of the grand old buildings have been restored with high-quality fixtures and pedestrian-friendly streetscapes beckon people to stroll and shop. Historical Driggs has been brought back to life!


Before” design standards (2003)

Key Bank Before

South Main Before

Creamery Before

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After” design standards (2013)

Key Bank After

South Main After

Creamery After


Since adopting design standards, the positive economic impact has been stunning:

  • Driggs sales tax has increased for the past 9 fiscal quarters, and the past 4 quarters have seen double digits increases.
  • Multiple new businesses have opened their doors.
  • Tourist traffic has increased because the downtown is more pedestrian friendly.
  • Just this past summer, Driggs set records for total employment and the size of our workforce.

However, did you know that some Idaho legislators recently tried to make design standards illegal?

During this legislative session, the Idaho House of Representatives proposed HB 480, which prohibited cities and counties from adopting design standards, and instead limited them to only providing “guidance or suggested patterns or design features for building aesthetics.” This bill was vigorously opposed by both theAssociation of Idaho Cities and the Idaho Chapter of the American Planning AssociationHowever, despite this organized opposition, HB 480 was quickly passed by the House on a 50-17-3. From there, it immediately went to review under the Senate Local Govt and Taxation Committee.

Fortunately, VARD’s local activism helped stop HB 480 to ensure our communities thrive through strong design.

As this bill went to review in the Senate, VARD quickly helped mobilize a very successful local campaign to engage local business leaders, developers and public officials in opposing this harmful bill. As reported in the Spokesman Review, on March 14, 2014, committee chairman Senator Jeff Siddoway  (R, Terreton) killed this harmful bill, specifically citing feedback from Teton Valley as his basis for denying the bill a hearing:

I certainly respect personal property rights,” Siddoway said. But he said the measure would have destroyed the ability of local communities to plan for how they want their town to develop, including those who, like Victor, opt for a downtown theme. “To take away that call from the locals is not a good Republican principle, to me,” Siddoway said. He said in Victor, a small city in eastern Idaho, the town has long had a western theme. “So they work with their property owners to try to put a western theme on the front of their shops and stores,” he said. “And they can’t get these themes accomplished without having the local planning authority to do that.

We are so grateful to Sen. Siddoway for this huge victory. We would also like to thank all of the local business leaders, elected officials, and developers who provided powerful testimonials to the Idaho Legislature (especially Victor Mayor Zach Smith whose words about Victor hit a home run!)


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