Thank you to the MDJ for the Sept. 30 front page article about Cobb County's initiative to replace our current zoning code with a new "unified development ordinance." Some additional thoughts:
1. I am not surprised that the MDJ was unable to get a response to the question of what is "obsolete" in the current zoning code and what "conflicts" they want to resolve. I have been asking those questions for weeks, and I have been asking the county to tell me what is structurally wrong with the zoning code that can't be fixed through the normal code amendment process. I have gotten the same non-answers as the MDJ received.
2. The issue at hand should have nothing to do with me, nor the other speaker. This was a public hearing at a Board of Commissioners meeting. The BOC has embarked on an initiative that will replace the current zoning code. Based on what is stated in the RFQ (Request for Quotation), it appears likely that this will result in a new code that is less focused on preserving the character of existing suburban neighborhoods, and more accommodating of higher density and more urban types of development.
3. Are there conflicts between the current zoning code and development guidelines? Yes, there are several. But the county already knows what those conflicts are. On many occasions in the past, Cobb has brought together a committee of developers and legitimate community representatives to discuss issues like this, in collaboration with Community Development, and figured out resolutions that both sides found reasonable. These conflicts could be fixed at zero cost to the taxpayer, without throwing out a zoning code that is well-designed to protect suburban communities.
4. Challenging the speakers to get involved in the process is a curious statement. The speakers were already getting involved by stating their concerns at the public hearing. And the Chair has been aware of my concerns for several weeks.
5. I want to be sure that the legitimate experienced representatives of suburban communities aren't going to be excluded from this process. The county should not load up this advisory committee with developers and urbanists who hate the suburbs. They are not representative of the vast majority of suburbanites.
6. The MDJ asked good questions about what are the "conflicts" and obsolete zoning districts, which the county again declined to answer. However, the more important question is: What is structurally wrong with our current zoning code that justifies replacing it? The answer is that there is nothing structurally wrong with our current zoning code, unless the objective is to adopt a new code that is less supportive of suburban style development, and more supportive of urbanization. The overwhelming majority of suburbanites live in the suburbs because they like the suburban lifestyle. They do not want their neighborhoods and communities to be urbanized.
7. County officials told the MDJ that they want to adopt a Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) because other jurisdictions have done it. Other jurisdictions are adopting UDOs that are less supportive of suburban style development, and more accommodating to urbanization.
8. Finally, I would like to make it clear that I am not the one who floated the Vinings cityhood idea. The MDJ became aware of the Vinings cityhood effort because I sent an email to my Vinings email list asking how people in Vinings felt about cityhood. I sent that email because others in Vinings were advocating cityhood. The response to my email was overwhelmingly positive in support of cityhood. I am not on the exploratory committee, but I do support getting a feasibility study. Even before this zoning code issue arose, commissioners were already giving Vinings, East Cobb, and Lost Mountain solid reasons to be concerned. Replacing our current zoning code will add to the urgency for these three proposed cities to pursue local control of zoning.