Tucker City Council, Decatur City Commission pass resolution opposing House Bill 302
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By Cathi Harris, contributor
At its regular meeting Monday night, the Tucker City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing Georgia House Bill 302, a measure that would restrict the ability of local governments to “adopt or enforce regulations” related to building design elements applied to single family homes or duplexes.
The Decatur City Commission unanimously adopted a similar resolution at its Monday night meeting.
If the legislation passes, local governments would no longer be able to control the exterior color of these dwellings or the building material type, and would not be able to regulate the appearance of architectural elements like roof structures or porches.
“This is a significant inroad into local zoning regulations in terms of building standards,” Tucker Community and Economic Development Director John McHenry told council members. “There are exceptions for homeowners associations and historic districts. But in the case of our overlays and what we are doing with the master plan and our sign overlay rewrite, this would have a big impact.”
Decatur City Manager Andrea Arnold thanked commissioners for going on the record being opposed to the bill, saying it would create a conflict with the city’s Unified Development Ordinance.
The bill was narrowly approved by a 6-5 vote in the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee last Wednesday and will now go before the Rules Committee before being able to move forward for a full House vote.
McHenry, with the city of Tucker, said that he would forward the city’s position to the DeKalb legislative delegation to urge them to vote against the bill if it makes to the floor.
Advocates for the proposal say that local regulations infringe on property owners’ rights and unnecessarily drive up the cost of construction, resulting in higher housing prices.
But McHenry said he does not believe the impetus of the bill is to encourage the development of affordable housing.
“In my professional experience, this is a completely apples and oranges issue,” McHenry told councilors. “It’s not as if, by getting rid of this regulation, that you are suddenly going to see a lot of affordable housing development taking place. It’s really about the main advocates for this bill — the building development community — not wanting to have that kind of regulation.”
Mayor Frank Auman said that he has heard some discussion of the bill from the perspective of homeowners who felt that some counties had gone overboard with regulations, acting more like homeowners associations with requirements about landscaping and prohibiting certain door colors. But, giving the state the power to overrule local communities with respect to zoning is a major overreach of power, he said.
“That’s like taking a sledgehammer to hit a gnat,” Auman said during discussion. “If they have that much of a problem, then they can just vote out their county commission at the next election.”
Council member Michelle Penkava urged Tucker residents who were concerned about the issue to be sure to contact their representatives and let them know.
Despite opposition from several city and county governments and the Georgia Municipal Association, the proposal has moved quickly through the House.
“When it went before the Agriculture Committee, there were some very intelligent conversations from people who were against it, but they were mostly drowned out by the sheer number of home builders who were there who are really behind this,” she said. “They have created this narrative of ‘Nobody should be able to tell me what color to paint my house,’ and when they boil it down to this really simple statement and that’s all that the folks on the committee are hearing, they are not really getting the whole conversation.”
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the cities of Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Roswell and South Fulton are also considering formal resolutions opposing the bill. Dunwoody’s City Council voted unanimously on Monday night to pass a resolution opposing the bill, according to a city press release.
In other business, the Tucker City Council:
– Heard a presentation on the current draft of the city’s strategic transportation master plan from Tim Preece with VHB, the planning consultants who are working with the city. The plan covers recommended sidewalk construction, bicycle infrastructure projects, intersection improvements, and road widenings and maintenance. The bulk of the recommended improvements involve adding sidewalks to the main arterial and collector roads in Tucker, Preece said, which is consistent with public feedback the steering committee received seeking improved walkability in town. The steering committee is continuing to incorporate feedback from city residents and will present a finalized document to the city later this year. More information on this and the city’s other strategic planning initiatives can be found here.
– Approved the re-appointment of Chuck Abbott, Joe Singleton, Keith Easterling, Neil Stubblefield, and Susan Setterstrom to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Abbott, Stubblefield and Setterstrom will serve new two-year terms. Easterling and Singleton were re-appointed to single-year terms.
– Passed an amendment to the city code regarding abandoned or unsafe buildings to make the city’s procedures for taking action against property owners consistent with state law.
Editor’s note: Editor and Publisher Dan Whisenhunt contributed to this story.