Rezoning hearings are a big audience draw at government meetings for a lot of reasons: They not only affect the view from people's backyards but can impact property values, traffic and school enrollment.
It’s not confined to the buzz at meetings, however. Social media is filled with back and forth over development proposals.
Public input at May 10-11 “community workshops” is what Hall County is seeking as it updates its zoning and other development regulations and combines them into what is dubbed as a Unified Development Code.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for citizens to give feedback and learn how these updates will regulate all new construction in unincorporated Hall County,” Hall County Planning Director Sarah McQuade said.
Here’s a few points about what the county is doing, what it means and a little bit about the process, which could wrap up in 2022.
Unified Development Code
What: Community workshops on Hall updates to zoning and development regulations
What to expect: presentation about county effort, then breakout sessions where participants will answer questions, address issues
More info: hallcountyudc.com
Balancing preservation with property rights
The Unified Development Code puts all its zoning, subdivision, environmental and other regulations in one document.
The code “determines what kind of development happens in unincorporated Hall County, where it can be built, and how dense it is,” McQuade said. “A UDC also controls how development looks and works, including things like building materials, parking and landscaping.”
Hall says it has several goals in the effort, including promoting economic growth, avoiding “unnecessarily strict” regulations, making regulations easier to understand, ensuring high-quality development and balancing the preservation of farms, natural spaces and historic places with residents’ property rights.
Aim to provide ‘clear understanding’ of regulations
Why go through such an effort if it’s not a state or federal requirement?
Hall’s existing zoning ordinance, adopted in August 1978, has been updated several times over the last 43 years, “but there has never been a comprehensive review and update of the zoning regulations,” McQuade said.
“While some parts of the zoning and other development ordinances are aligned with the county’s vision, there are a number of regulations that are not fully aligned with this vision. There are also some gaps in regulations and some unclear or duplicate requirements.
“By undergoing this process,” McQuade added, “the county will end up with one single document which provides citizens and the development community a clear understanding of the county’s land-use regulations.”
‘Minor rezonings’ are possible as result of effort
Hall says that no property is being redeveloped as a part of putting together the code.
However, some “minor rezonings” might result as part of the effort. In that case, “property owners would be notified in advance of any potential rezonings,” according to a county website devoted to the effort.
Residents are usually quite vocal at meetings about rezoning to allow developments, especially the ones they oppose. Much of the concerns are over traffic, school numbers and property values. Many also complain that a development “just doesn’t fit” in a certain neighborhood.
Hall County has its own list of issues
From controlling mobile homes to short-term rentals, the county already has a list of issues or types of developments that may need to be addressed by the code.
Some of the concerns are environmental, such as whether clearing a lot of trees should be allowed and whether lot sizes should be tied to sewer infrastructure.
Residents can bone up on zoning information and other resources before they come to the meetings by visiting the county’s website.