Brown’s proposal, the Neighborhood Notification Initiative, would encourage each neighborhood to voluntarily register with the county government to be provided with targeted planning and zoning information.
Brown maintains that the county’s planning division is understaffed, and likely would require two full-time and one part-time additional hires to operate the program.
After she spoke about it to the Board of Commissioners last week, Chairman Tim Lee said his staff would bring a recommendation in the next 30 to 60 days.
Lee said while the proposal has potential, he doubted the county would be hiring the additional staff necessary for its implementation.
Brown said her proposal is under fire from some civic groups.
“I think change is always tough for people, and people get comfortable with a system when they learn how to operate within it, and I think some of these people fear a perceived loss of power,” Brown said.
Brown believes the more people know about what is going on with their county, the better things will be.
“They will say, ‘Well, I know how to go online and get zoning information, I know the process, I know everything, we don’t need this,’ but there are very few people that know how to do that; there are very few people that know who their district commissioner is, let alone their planning commissioner or the zoning administrator. They don’t understand the process,” Brown said.
If a geographic area doesn’t have a formal neighborhood, it can unite with adjacent areas to register as one group, Brown said.
Canton Road Neighbors is a geographically based civic group along the Canton Corridor representing about a dozen neighborhoods.
Brown said her proposal already is used in Athens-Clarke County.
“It’s not controversial because it’s voluntary, because it’s an information-based model, it’s fairly low cost, it’s not labor intensive, it is not as heavily structured and political as Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Unit system, and that’s really why Athens adopted it. Denver has it also,” she said.
Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Units, which were drawn into the city charter in the 1970s as a way to give all neighborhoods a seat at the table, is more structured than what Brown is proposing in the requirement of bylaws, elections and city staff meetings, she said.
Brown said the benefits of the proposal are that registered neighborhoods and civic groups would receive information earlier and they won’t have to take the time to search for it online or miss it if they are busy.
“There will also be additional information of interest to the community posted on the neighborhood page, possibly links to site plan review, things like that. It’s going to reduce a lot of arbitrariness in how people are dealt with,” Brown said. “When you remove the politics from the process and replace it with a standardized process, it’s more fair and more transparent.”
Brown, who is a researcher for Environmental Health News, a foundation-funded media organization, became engaged in county activism in 2003 over a zoning matter impacting her neighborhood.