Every January, Cobb County goes through a process of annually updating its Land Use Plan. While there are several types of Land Use Plan amendments that occur in January, each year the most prominent need for Land Use Plan amendments is to revise the Land Use Plan to conform to all zoning decisions in the previous year that were in non-conformity with the Land Use Plan.
Historically, Cobb County rezones property however it sees fit, throughout the year. If Cobb wants to reject a rezoning application, it may cite non-conformity with the Land Use Plan, as a convenient justification for denying the rezoning application. However, if Cobb wants to grant the rezoning, it does not consider the non-conformity with the Land Use Plan – it just grants the rezoning. Then in January, Cobb revises the Land Use Plan to conform to all of the non-conforming rezonings that occurred during the previous year.
Cobb County Civic Coalition believes that the Land Use Plan should have consistent meaning and relevance. Many jurisdictions do not allow rezonings that would be out of conformity with their Land Use Plan. Instead, they require an application to amend the Land Use Plan first, and only if that is approved can the rezoning case be considered.
CCCC recommends that Cobb County should not consider rezoning applications in conflict with the Land Use Plan unless the County first amends the Land Use Plan to a designation that would allow the new zoning that is being requested.
If a rezoning application is in conflict with the Land Use Plan, then the Land Use Plan must be amended prior to the County considering the rezoning application. If the Land Use Plan amendment is approved, the rezoning application could be considered during the same public hearing, but would be considered only if the land use plan amendment is approved.
The land use amendment hearing would prohibit any discussion of the merits of the rezoning application. The only issue that can be presented during the land use amendment hearing is what is the best and most appropriate land use designation for the property. The applicant can present information as to why the current land use plan is inappropriate, and may present information as to why the proposed land use designation is more appropriate than the current designation.
How does this make a difference? Let’s look at a case from a few years ago, that was not perpetrated by a current commissioner.
There was a rezoning case in an industrial area, and a developer wanted to redevelop a property as high density residential, because he thought he could build homes and sell them for a profit. Whatever future problems occurred for future homeowners, and existing industrial businesses was not the developer’s concern. The developer wanted to build homes on a property that was adjacent to an existing garbage transfer station.
Adjacent to an existing garbage transfer station. Is that really an appropriate place to build new homes? There are few more incompatible land uses than deliberately putting high density homes adjacent to an existing garbage transfer station.
This is why we need to have a Land Use Plan.
The land use designation on this property had been Industrial, so residential development was in conflict and not permitted under the Industrial designation. If there had been a public hearing about what is the appropriate land use designation for this property, in an area that was mostly industrial and industrial compatible, and adjacent to an existing garbage transfer station, it is hard to imagine that any commissioner would have voted that High Density Residential was a more appropriate land use designation than Industrial.
Cobb should change its process for rezoning applications that are in conflict with the Land Use Plan. Cobb should adopt a process where the Land Use Plan would have to be amended first, and that no property could be rezoned in conflict with the Land Use Plan.