Brookhaven, GA, October 24, 2016 – by Trey Benton – Development in the City of Brookhaven is certainly a topic that citizens feel strongly about – whether it be the proposed Brookhaven MARTA Transit Oriented Development or a proposal by CONNOLLY to build a new mixed-use product at Dresden Dr. and Caldwell Rd. Residents also want to know when a code variance is needed for their neighbor to build a new garage, install a pool, add an addition to their home, for example. All agree when a City Notice sign pops up it becomes a topic of interest.
For any given development project in Brookhaven, a permit application must be filed with the City. If the project requires a rezoning or a variance, additional information is required such as a site plan and a letter of intent – although some simple permit applications can be approved as-is Administratively, such as getting new gutters installed. Not all cases get the distinction of displaying a stylish City Notice sign – just the ones requiring a public hearing.
While the language on the sign gives a “headline” description of what the Notice sign is for, there is more information regarding the specific request available. And that information is on the City’s website – although if you don’t specifically know where to look, it is easily missed.
In the case of variance applications or rezonings requiring a trip through the Planning Commission or the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), the required documentation can be found on the City Website here. A hearing date is also displayed as well as links to the application, site plan and letter of intent.
When the case is to be heard by the Planning Commission or the ZBA, prior to the meeting, the City’s Community Development Department Staff will prepare a packet of information called a Staff Report that explains the criteria the City requires and their rationale for their Staff Recommendation – normally with a list of conditions the Staff adds to the request in order for it to be considered for approval. In some cases, the Staff Recommendation is “Denial” and can be issued for a variety of reasons such as non-conformance to code, etc.
The Planning Commission is described by the City as a recommending body, whose members are appointed by the City Council. “The commission evaluates land use matters and makes a recommendation for consideration by the Mayor and Council,” the City explains. The Planning Commission is guided and administratively supported by the Brookhaven Community Development Director. The guiding principles include established zoning ordinance criteria and the comprehensive plan.
The Planning Commission has seven members – one serves as Chair, one as Vice-Chair – all Brookhaven resident volunteers. The Planning Commission’s recommendation is non-binding on the city council.
The ZBA on the other hand, does make binding decisions. This Board is also guided and administratively supported by the Brookhaven Community Development Director. Members are appointed by the Brookhaven City Council. “The ZBA evaluates cases relating to certain variances and standards of the zoning ordinance and development regulations, as well as appeals of an administrative official,” the City explains. “The board evaluates matters and makes a final decision based on established Brookhaven Zoning Ordinance criteria. Appeals to decisions of the Zoning Board of Appeals are made to DeKalb County Superior Court.”
The ZBA also has seven members – one serves as Chair, another as Vice-Chair – also comprised of volunteer Brookhaven residents.
After the Planning Commission makes their final recommendation, the case is heard by the City Council. The City Council Agenda Packet includes all of the original paperwork filings and the Community Development Staff Report, as well as the Planning Commission’s recommendation. The City Council has the final say.
So, when a Public Notice sign pops up around the City for a variance or zoning hearing, check the Rezoning and Variance Cases webpage on the City Website for more information.
Additionally, the City of Brookhaven’s Community Development Department is available by calling 404-637-0500 in the event you are contemplating a project and don’t know the process or have questions. Residents can also view the information provided here as to what a Building Permit is needed for.