Bill based on Buckhead ruling
Holt seeking to reinforce local county zoning
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Georgia Representative Doug Holt has presented to the state legislature a bill that would allow local governments to appeal to the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court judgements relating to the constitutionality of zoning decisions made by cities and counties.
The bill is a direct response to the 2006 reversal in Morgan County Superior Court of a county decision not to re-zone property on Old Buckhead Road.
“This is a fairly sensitive area of law,” said Holt, in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
“The interesting thing is that a number of high-powered land-use attorneys came out to speak against this bill…and I learned that I might have another avenue of education.”
Holt said that he could possibly work with continuing judicial education in the state to let Superior Court judges know about precedents that would disallow the financial gain of property owners to be a factor in decisions.
“When a court reviews a zoning denial case, the decision must be made based on existing zoning rather than the desired zoning,” said Holt. That was not the case in the Buckhead Land Development LLC.
Holt’s bill, if passed, would add language to the Georgia code stating that the potential increase in property value of a piece of property under a re-zoning would be “irrelevant.”
It would also identify judgements relating to the constitutionality of zoning decisions as part of a group of judicial decisions which could qualify for appeal in the state of Georgia; higher courts could not decline to hear an appeal on such a basis.
Whether his bill passes or not, Holt feels confident that he can bring change to zoning decisions made in the future.
“You never know; there could be enough special interests involved to tie this bill up in committee,” said Holt.
“But now I have another way to go. I was glad to create a ruckus about this--either way, I think I can get the message across.”