Sunday, February 10, 2013

Zoning - The Forest and the Trees

The DHA is going to hear a number of presentations tonight.  One is from Steve Dush re:  the zoning code rewrite.  Another is from Tom Taylor and Fran Millar on legislation for 2013.

Everyone's hackles go up when talk begins about the Zoning Rewrite.  Even on John's blog, he zeroed in on home businesses (not the actual ordinance, just an excerpt from the last public presentation) and ignored everything else.  Then there's arguments about bicycle accommodations.  Then there's backyard farming.  Then there's street-legal golf carts.  Then there's infill redevelopment.

All of these topics are important because it defines diverse activity that is already happening, but there have been no workable boundaries set so that our evolving community can function without stepping over each
other.  Or squabbling over the idea that someone's lifestyle is somehow different.

It's ironic that these individual foci have taken center stage in the zoning rewrite, and there has been NO attention paid whatsoever to the zoning topics that will affect each and every one of the 46K+ residents of this city.

The residential zoning regs have new elements that most take for granted.  How many of you own a boat?  Or Jetskis?  Or an RV or camper?  Or just stash your stuff in a shed you pick up at Home Depot?  How many of you have a large, extended family with numerous cars?  How many live with people you're not related to?  (That includes LGBT couples too, gang.)  How many of you have gardening equipment?    Rototillers?  Or even just a riding lawn mower to save time?  I'll bet you didn't even think of how you keep your property because you don't get complaints from the neighbors, right?

Think again.

These new regulations were composed with YOU in mind.  Forget about "commercial use" or "occupations" or "agricultural" or other niche interests.   These zoning regulations are going to dictate to you how you may keep your own personal possessions on your own personal property.  Every citizen of this community is going to be affected by these updated regs, at some point in your lifetime in Dunwoody.

From the "super module" released in January:

"Household means  a group of individuals related by blood, marriage, adoption, guardianship or 
other custodial relationship, or not more than 4 persons not so related, living together in a dwelling unit as a single housekeeping unit under a common housekeeping management plan based on 
an intentionally structured relationship providing organization and stability."

You've just been informed how you may set up your household and with whom you may live.  Say you're the Brady Bunch:  Mom, Dad, six kids, a dog, and a live-in employee.  Alice would not be allowed to live in the maid's quarters, because she is unrelated to more than 4 people in the house.  Alice would not be permitted her own apartment (w/ kitchen, etc) within the house either because only relatives may live in "in law" apartments in a single-family home.

"The parking and outdoor storage of trailers, recreational vehicles, travel trailers, campers, pickup coaches, motorized homes, boat trailers, boats and similar vehicles and equipment is prohibited in street yards and within 20 feet of the rear lot line"

I can think of three homes right off the bat who are going to have to rethink how they store their personal property.  Remember, none of this is the dreaded "commercial" use and there are homeowners who store their property happily at the moment without meeting these regulations.  To make matters worse, there are no storage facilities inside city limits that rent parking spaces.  Closest ones are in Doraville and Sandy Springs.

So you want to use PODS or a similar service to store your stuff off-property, or move from one house to another.  Can you tell which storage company meets these regulations?

"The community development director is authorized to approve the use of portable 
storage containers as a temporary use in any zoning district."

So to get a PODS to your house to get your stuff out of view, you need a permit.  Who's going to think of that when calling the company?

"Temporary portable storage containers may not exceed 8.5 feet in height or 
more than 260 square feet in area."

If you need more storage space than this, you're hosed.

Temporary portable storage containers may not be located in the public rightof-way or obstruct intersection visibility.
Need your driveway clear while you use a PODS to move your stuff?  Bummer!

Temporary portable storage containers may not be located in side setbacks or side yards. Temporary portable storage containers may not be located in a street yard unless located on a driveway or other paved surface.

Double bummer if you have a small lot.  Or a hilly one.

Rail cars, semi-trailers or similar equipment may not be used for temporary (or permanent) storage.

Hey, guy on Tilly Mill road next to the "J" - this was written for you!

Signs on temporary portable storage containers must comply with all applicable city sign regulations

Show of hands, who is going to read the city sign code to PODS or other storage company to see if the paint on the storage containers matches the code?

So while we have to keep smaller subsections of our community in mind when crafting a zoning document, let's not overlook the basic regulations that will eventually dictate the lives of every citizen, regardless of what district they live in, regardless of what kind of home in what subdivision.  Forgetting the basics of zoning residential districts is like tripping over a $100 bill to pick up a quarter.  And it will lead to more upset red-shirts clammoring for their rights down the line.

Tom and Fran would do well to focus their legislative comments tonight on ways to extricate Dunwoody from the ever-failing DeKalb School System.  Whenever DCSS' credibility hits bottom, they start digging.  Eugene Walker should be in China by now.  We can argue and fuss and conspire and ruminate about all of the zoning in the world.  But all of that effort will be worth a hill of poop in the dog park if Dunwoody's schools are associated with a system that is all but designed to fail.

If we're going to preserve (I prefer "conserve"...) our community for future generations to enjoy and live in, let's make sure the foundations and basics of the zoning code and other legal structures are truly livable.  Worry less about the "occupations" and the "livestock"; worry more about the actual residential rules.

We haven't even gotten to the residentially-zoned stream buffers yet.


Bob Lundsten said...

I have examined the hard work that the oversight committee did and in general commend you for a job well done.
I am pleased to see that you left open the loop hole that will continue to allow me to raise my pet gorillas in my back yard.
Now if only the code allowed me to compost the gorilla crap things would be perfect

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

Bob, you're disappointing me! I thought you knew every reg inside and out!

Georgia state law forbids private ownership of primates. No loophole and Dunwoody ordinances can't override it.

What happened to that gay elephant porn you were working on?