New Cities and the Effects on Zoning and Special Use Permits

Posted by Hecht Walker, P.C.
Posted on December 2, 2015

Tucker Continues the Trend of Cityhood

On Tuesday, November 3, 2015, the City of Tucker became the eighth new city to be incorporated in the Metro Atlanta area in the past ten years.  Voters came up short by just a few hundred votes from creating a ninth city, LaVista Hills. Proponents of municipal incorporation point to dissatisfaction with County government services, political corruption, higher crime rates, and tax dollars accommodating other areas of the County.  Opponents argue that municipal incorporation would simply add another layer of government that would not be able to serve them any better than the County. While the opponents of municipal control prevailed in blocking cityhood for LaVista Hills, Tucker became the eighth new city in ten years in the Metro Atlanta area that began with the creation of City of Sandy Springs, followed by the cities of Brookhaven, Chattahoochee Hills, Dunwoody, Johns Creek, Milton, and Peachtree Corners. Local government efforts continue as well for residents in South Fulton County pushing for the creation of a new city of South Fulton.

The creation of a new city begins with a grass roots effort to inform and persuade local residents to support and eventually vote for cityhood.  In the meantime, before the issue can be voted on by local residents, the Georgia legislature must first pass a bill authorizing the issue to be placed on the ballot. Residents in Sandy Springs waited more than two decades for the Georgia legislature to allow them to vote on cityhood, and the residents of South Fulton continue to wait for such authorization. Once authorized by the State legislature, it is up to the residents of the involved communities to vote on whether or not to incorporate.

The creation of a new city involves a shift of a number of governmental responsibilities from the County to the new city, such as fire departments, police, water, and even trash collection services.  It is up to the city officials to decide what services to take over and what to continue to pay the County to provide. For example, while the cities of Sandy Springs and Brookhaven have chosen to create their own police force, the new City of Tucker will continue to rely on the law enforcement services of Dekalb County. Cities will also assume the powers and responsibilities to issues bonds, levy taxes (such as a Local Option Sales Tax and ad valorem property taxes), create city parks, establish a municipal court system, buy, sell and use property, issue permits, and hire and fire city personnel.

The incorporation of a new city and the assumption of various governmental services and responsibilities can greatly affect individual residents and businesses alike. One of the largest and most comprehensive duties of a new municipal government is to create a new set of ordinances and regulations to govern its citizens, including a new zoning map and zoning ordinances regulating the use of private property.  In some instances, the new City zoning ordinance may disallow types of property usage in areas of the new City that the County previously permitted, or require new special use permits for certain property uses. These new ordinances can also be extremely costly for new property owners.

Zoning ordinances continue to be more strict and costlier, especially for business owners looking to purchase property in the affected area. Many ordinances follow a growing trend to require expensive improvements to properties before new uses will be allowed, including the creation of bike paths and sidewalks across the property, and even the construction of covered bus stops.  Parking lots may be prohibited from the front of buildings, and brick masonry privacy fences may be required.  Zoning ordinances also can control the design of any new building on property and what materials can be used.  While existing property uses may be grandfathered and protected from stringent new zoning requirements, individuals and businesses looking to move into new cities should familiarize themselves with any new zoning ordinances that could affect the use of their new property. Property owners adversely affected by zoning ordinances should consult with an attorney who may be able to provide advice on the property restrictions, and assist with any rezoning and special use permit needs.

The real estate attorneys at Hecht Walker have represented numerous purchasers, builders, developers and commercial property owners in re-zoning, special use permit and land use matters. Because we have represented several counties, cities, and local authorities, including development, housing, water and re-development authorities, we have developed an in depth understanding of the responsibilities, rights, and limitations of local governments on land use control.  Our familiarity of local zoning ordinances, the rezoning and permitting process, and local governments enable us to better help you protect your property rights. If you or someone you know are ever in need of zoning and permitting assistance in the Metro Atlanta area, please contact us at 404-348-4881 or at [email protected]



This article is not intended to provide legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.  We strongly advise anyone with questions regarding their legal rights to contact an attorney directly in order to assess and advise on particular matters.  This article is based upon information available as of the date above, and contains general information that may change depending on particular circumstances of certain matters. 


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