Your Georgia home is your place of refuge, and it is also likely one of your biggest investments. Nothing may lower the value and enjoyability of a home faster than zoning changes that allow undesirable development in your area or threaten the peace and safety of your neighborhood. When you learn that another entity has requested a zoning change from the local government, you may have limited time to unify your neighbors and take action.
Knowledge and numbers are two important keys to successfully challenging a zoning change. The more you know about the zoning laws and the process for changing them, the better you will be able to communicate your concerns to the decision makers. Additionally, the larger the number of neighbors who are willing to join the fight, the more impact your stand will have in front of the zoning board.
What do you need to know?
Your first step after learning of a proposed zoning change is to find out what the zoning regulations are. These should be a matter of public record, and you may be able to find them online. If not, you should plan a trip to the local zoning office, obtain a copy of the entire text related to your circumstances and make sure you understand it. Then you may wish to take the following steps:
- Inform your neighbors of the proposed change and its implications for the community.
- Find out when the first public hearing will be held to discuss the proposed changes.
- Organize a pre-hearing meeting that involves as many neighbors as possible to discuss the zoning laws and proposed changes.
- Encourage your neighbors to attend the first zoning board hearing since a large crowd can greatly affect the board’s decision.
- Stay informed about changes in the rezoning proposal, which often happen as development projects evolve.
- Help your neighbors stay motivated by updating them on any changes or upcoming meetings.
Having as many or more people show up for the second public meeting is critical because developers may drag out the process hoping residents will lose interest. They may also contact individual residents to try to assuage them or entice them to change their minds. You may play a key role in keeping your neighbors informed and involved in the process.
After the decision
The zoning board’s decision is not always final. If they deny the rezoning, you can expect the other side to revise their proposal and try again. If your side loses the fight, you may wish to consider if it is worth the effort to take your cause to a higher authority.