Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dunwoody homeowners do not need a SLUP to have tutors visit their homes

If this sounds obvious, it's not.

The Dunwoody Crier reported the following comment during the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting of June 16 to decide upon whether to accept the appeal made by Manget Way homeowners against a facility developed by Centers for Discovery:
She also said that the facility would involve tutors for the girls in treatment. “Tutors going to and from a home require a special land use permit,” she said, pointing to a case involving an in-home violin teacher.

This statement is incorrect for a couple of reasons.

First, at no time has there ever been a restriction on what type of workers could be hired in a homeowner's private residence.  Any homeowner may have any contractor at any time without seeking permission first.  This includes tutors.  Or doctors or other medical personnel.  Or dog walkers.  Or landscapers.  Or even salespeople.   Chapter 27 of Dunwoody's municipal ordinances only dictates that home business owners from conducting business activities in their own homes.  This is one of the many contradictions in the home business-related ordinances introduced during the ratification process.  Any business representative, home-based or not, can visit any home they wish.  A sales representative can host a "party" in a customer's home with their consent.  The law just wants to see that not take place in the rep's own home.

It's a similar standard for yard signs:  a home business owner may not put a sign in their own yard advertising their business.  But they may put a sign in a customer's yard with the customer's permission to show that they had worked there.

The other problem is that home-based tutors are exempt from the SLUP requirements for "customer contact" as of a special city council meeting of September 17, 2013.    After much demand for "research" and an outright refusal to compromise on the extensive SLUP process that exceeds any "impact" a business owner has, city council voted to allow exceptions for home tutors.  Tutors and other educational enterprises weren't going to obey that requirement anyway.  This exception introduced a number of contradictions in the zoning code as well but home-based educators aren't about to argue and I don't blame them.

The Zoning Board of Appeals opens every meeting with a preamble with the gist of how the board interprets code, but does not create it.  It is unfortunate that this mistake was made during a critical case that is probably  headed to court where subtle interpretations of the law and the credibility of the parties will play a role in the final outcome.  After all of the work that the Manget Way neighbors have put in to build a credible case and seek support from the DHA and legal specialists, I would hate to think that it was all put in jeopardy by this ignorant remark.   Further, it puts the credibility of the ZBA into question for further applicants.  How can any citizen trust in the fair judgement of the ZBA for their zoning questions if they can't get this simple fact right?

I call upon the ZBA members to acknowledge this publicly documented error in their next meeting and correct it for the record and for the edification of the community they serve.**  The correction should be at least as obvious and public as the original error.  Otherwise, the citizens of Dunwoody have no reason to trust in your decisions.

I also call upon the city council to ensure that errors made by the ZBA and other appointed boards are acknowledged publicly for the benefit of the community.**  You seven appointed and voted to approve these board members.  You seven have to accept some responsibility for their accuracy in interpreting our ordinances and ensuring that the public is not misled.  If you are unwilling to hold appointed boards accountable for their actions, then your decisions are equally suspect.

Let's see who has the personal courage to correct an obvious mistake.  I'm sure it will come out eventually on video.  And if this mistake is not corrected publicly... well we have another wrinkle in the next election cycle.

**By this I intend that these clarifications or corrections would be made sincerely.  I wouldn't put it past some of our citizen board members to meet the demand for accuracy in a facetious or otherwise insincere manner.  Once more, let's see how credible are boards and council are.

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