Monday, October 28, 2013

Zoning: More Truth, More Consequences

Back to the zoning vote analysis.

In the previous post, we saw that the council members who shot down the original version of Chapter 27 that they were voting on actually benefit from home based businesses themselves.

The irony continues.

During the same September 17 meeting, Heneghan and Deutsch were getting agitated that the new code proposed a limit on pets in a residence.  In an ideal world, such a limit would not be necessary.  But remember:  the theory behind this rewrite is, what limit defines the boundary between activity that does not affect a neighboring residence, and one that does?  Hence, limits were created that, in general life-experience in Dunwoody represented that limit.  This was applied to every situation and in some there was a lot of give-and-take and compromise on where the line was drawn so that as many sides as possible got some advantage out of it.

In principle, I had hoped that the zoning code would simply define what a nuisance is, then adapt it to any activity that may come up in the future.  The consultants weren't going in that direction, though, and there wasn't anything I could do about it.  So I went with what we had.

Heneghan and Deutsch were the  mouthpieces from this point on in the above meeting.  Bonser didn't jump in much.  Shortal called for greater restrictions in the form of smaller numbers.  Heneghan and Deutsch were upset that there was ANY limit on ANY animals whatsoever.  This in spite of the fact that earlier this year, there was a well-publicized incident of animal hoarding in John's district where a child had to be removed from the home for their safety.  So clearly, there was precedent for this element of the code - no hyperbole or other fictitious or hypothetical scenarios required.

These two demanded that all limits on all animals be removed.  Deutsch is quoted in the Dunwoody Reporter as saying:
“I think we need to take this number out of here,” she said. “I don’t think we need to tell people they can have 10 dogs. I think we need to regulate the nuisances.”
Boner, Heneghan and Deutsch were also very supportive of using back yards as barnyards, so their sympathy for animal owners is even broader.  

What does this have to do with home businesses and their approval (or lack thereof)?

It shows that Heneghan and Deutsch applied a different standard to their evaluation of home occupations than they did to other residential activities that have the potential to be a neighborhood nuisance.  

In their minds, activities inside a home (or even inside a yard) should not be "over regulated" with rules or limits or numbers, because it's unenforceable and intrusive and only reported nuisances should be addressed individually.  The standard is the opposite for home business owners:  in spite of the low number of complaints against home businesses, these homeowners are considered "guilty until proven innocent".  They have to prove a negative by proving they are *not* a nuisance in order to be permitted by the city.  (Again, excepting home tutors and teachers, as it shook out in the final review.)  They upheld this stance even after their own research showed that most municipalities in Metro Atlanta do not require or need SLUPs for their home business owners to see customers.  A cursory glance at the city's research and the proposed zoning code shows that Dunwoody's proposed permitting ordinance was modeled after Marietta.

Let's review:

The same people who want up to 46,000 people to have an opinion on what matter of conversation occurs in a single house on a single street, even if they are not affected, also want homeowners to be permitted by right to turn their backyards into kennels or barnyards without submitting a single piece of paper or notifying a single adjacent neighbor.

This means that the standards were based not on factual research, but personal taste and politics.

Here's some food for thought as the new zoning codes are implemented:

If the zoning codes were edited based on individual convenience and preference, how many other decisions by these council members were made the same way?

Were any of their decisions since getting into office based on a balanced, objective review of factual data?

Suppose someone decides they want to try to pursue the SLUP process.  What guarantee do they have that their applications will be reviewed on their merits and not the personal taste of the council members?

Time will tell.
Because I want to end on a positive note:  there has been progress on this front.

Teachers and students rejoice! You are no longer shackled by an unfair approval process and you are free to welcome your students and your families as you see fit. Please be good stewards to your neighborhood and a good example to the community of how home businesses can be an asset to the community when managed by good neighbors.

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