While You Were Paying Attention To The New Comprehensive Plan…
Guest Post by David Neuringer
We have all been watching and participating in the creation of the City’s new Comprehensive Land Use Plan. When it comes to future Rezoning Cases, this new Comprehensive Plan, by and large favors the Citizens of Johns Creek, and is not so friendly toward developers and land owners with developable tracts of land.
However, I would like to make you aware of something the Johns Creek City Government is trying to do that will have major negative ramifications on Rezoning Cases, both past and future, in the City. The Community Development Department, at the request of the Mayor, City Council and the City Attorney, has put forth a change in the City’s Rezoning Ordinance. It is Text Amendment A-18-001, and it is to be heard at the June 5, 2018, Planning Commission Meeting. The Text Amendment is then scheduled to be heard by the Mayor and City Council at the June 18, 2018, City Council Meeting. The link to the Text Amendment is below:
The Text Amendment is asking for the removal of the below paragraph from “Sec. 28.2. - Land Use Petitions” of the City’s Zoning Ordinance;
“If a petition was previously denied, the owner must demonstrate that the proposed land use petition is significantly different from the previous denial to the satisfaction of the Mayor and City Council before it can be considered for a reinitiation. A significant difference includes, but is not limited to a change in zoning district, use, density, height, buffers or other methods of screening, or other items which were discussed at a public hearing.”
What does this mean? Currently, a full or flat denial of a Land Use Petition (Rezoning Request) by the Mayor and City Council, done so using the Steinberg Criteria and the Comprehensive Plan as a legal basis for the denial, is a policy statement that says what the developer and land owner(s) have proposed does not belong at the location in question. The above section of the Zoning Ordinance gives finality to that denial. The public does not have to worry that something similar will be brought forth in a Land Use Petition in the future at that location. This section of the Zoning Ordinance gives our elected officials the ability to enforce this policy statement for the Citizens of Johns Creek.
By removing the above section, the City would be removing the policy statement made by a full or flat denial. The Rezoning Ordinance would allow developers and land owners to be able to re-file the same or similar Land Use Petitions, as the ones they previously had denied. The only stipulation would be that they would have to wait twelve months from the initial denial to re-file their Land Use Petitions. It gets worse. The removal of the above section of the Zoning Ordinance would be retroactive. Property owners, who have had previous Land Use Petitions denied by the City since the City’s inception, would now be allowed to re-file the same or similar Land Use Petitions on their land if it has not since been developed. In other words, past work and effort by the Community to oppose a Rezoning in these previously denied cases would be for naught.
When it comes to Rezoning Cases that are brought before the City, the developers and land owners have a great advantage over the Community. The one bit of power the Community does have in Rezoning Cases is the developers and land owners knowledge that a full or flat denial is a final decision. Because a full or flat denial has this sense of finality, it gives developers and land owners a greater impetus to work with the Community to try to get their Rezoning Requests right the first time. By removing the above section of the Zoning Ordinance, the City would be taking this power away from the Citizens of the City.
In the fall of 2017, O’Dwyer Properties filed a Land Use Petition with the City to rezone a piece of property for single family homes on Parsons Road. Initially, both the City and the surrounding Community was opposed to the Land Use Petition. To their credit, and because they feared their Land Use Petition would be denied, O’Dwyer worked with the Community to make their proposal acceptable. O’Dwyer gave in to almost all the Community’s requests. In the end, the Community approved of the final proposal. Because of the Community’s support, O’Dwyer’s Land Use Petition was approved by the Mayor and City Council. This shows that you get better Land Use Petitions and positive outcomes when the public is involved in the Rezoning process.
Finally, and most importantly, the removal of the above section of the Zoning Ordinance will all but kill public participation in the Land Use Petition process. If this section is removed, developers and land owners who have a Land Use Petition denied can continuously re-file a similar petition every twelve months until it is approved. Rezoning will become a game of attrition. Why would the public spend the time getting involved in opposing a Land Use Petition knowing full well that a denied petition could be back in twelve months and they would have to start the process anew? Developers and land owners would be less likely to engage the public in their original Land Use Petitions. They will take their chances with their original plans knowing that if they are denied they can come back in twelve months with a slightly changed petition and try again.
Over the years, there has been one truth when it comes to Land Use Petitions in the City of Johns Creek. If there is no public opposition to a Land Use Petition, that request, no matter what it might be, is almost always approved by the Mayor and City Council. By removing the above section of the Zoning Ordinance, the City will take a giant step toward insuring that the public’s involvement in the Rezoning process is all but eliminated. The prospect of this occurring is unacceptable. In situations like this, when your elected officials are attempting to take away your ability to shape the way you want your Community to evolve and grow, you must take a stand. Inform your neighbors about this issue, and most importantly, contact your Mayor and City Council and tell them to oppose Text Amendment A-18-001.