I opened my email this morning and read a note from Councilman John, advising me of the Special Called Meeting regarding the Code Rewrite.
I have purposely stayed out of the discussions and meetings that have taken place for the most part. I attended a few meetings at the very beginning. Most of those meeting were very poorly attended. Outside of the regular cast of characters that have been involved in community issues for the last 30 years, few citizens took advantage of the opportunity to fully participate. That is an opportunity wasted.
I have been actively involved in zoning for over 30 years and it took a monumental effort on my part not to get involved in the public discussions. Everyone knows if I have an opinion I will make it known. I have the scars on my tongue from biting it so hard.
So next week we have the first read. Then it will be voted on. We will then have our own code and not be able to blame future mishaps on DeKalb. As we progress as a city we assume more responsibility for our future. We take all the credit when things go good, but now have all the responsibility when things do not.
Sunday there will be a DHA meeting where “FINAL COMMENTS “and discussion will be held prior to the City Council meeting. I will make 2 comments there, but publish them here for those who cannot attend the meeting.
The first is sure to set off AD (Dunwoody Working Mom). She and I have disagreed about running a business out of your residential property. My stance is simple; run your internet business or accounting business, but NO customer contact. If you are running a business (including violin lessons) that requires customers coming to your house, get an office.
The rights and protections of single family homes and our residential neighborhoods out weighs the right for a person to run a business with customer contact in those neighborhoods. The argument about property rights is misplaced as ZONING itself limits ones use of their private property. If you bought or live in a single family home, you have the RIGHT that the neighborhood will stay that way
The second issue involves a process called variances. Under the current code a landowner get a property rezoned by going through the public process, Community Council, Planning Commission and finally the City Council. Zoning changes what uses that you can develop on your property.
Variance on the other hand, alters the development guidelines for the projects that are being designed and ultimately built on these sights. Currently the City Council rezones and the Board of Appeals grant any variance. Having to Boards, both with some level of judicial powers allows a project to be considered and reviewed by to separate commissions each following different criteria in their respective review.
Without boring everyone, the new code will allow the city council to take over the power of the Board of Appeals. Now while the City Council reviews zoning plans of a project, they will be able to grant CONCURRENT variances that will give developers what they need immediately and without having to face the Board of Appeals and havibg theproject reviewed under a specific set of development criteria.
Great news for developers who want to the system to be quicker, but dangerous as elected politicians who are seeking development and the next big glitzy project will be by nature wiling to bend the rules to allow reductions of setbacks, stream variances, retain wall heights and landscape and tree ordinance requirements. Over thirty years I have seen even the best meaning, well intention elected official be so taken with the glitz and bright lights of a developer’s proposal, that they are blinded into not seeing the details. Concurrent variance put ALL of the development authority into the hands of elected officials and removes the citizen input at a very critical juncture in the development process.
Both of these changes are really bad ideas. Both of these ideas are most likely going to pass without question. Politicians love the additional power and developers love the ability to talk about the big picture while the details get passed over.
Given that no one showed too much interest in the whole rezoning process from the beginning, I expect no one to actually read this piece or even care. They won’t care until something gets built in their back yard that the council has approved based on this new code or until your neighbor has clients show up at his house 6 days a week and code enforcement becomes powerless to enforce and unenforceable code requirement. There are going to be issues but they will be Dunwoody issues
Oh one more thing, the new code despite what communities all around us are doing, will still not allow for chickens. We can all rest easier now.