Zoning 101

Presentation given by Vernon Ryle during the Summer 2007 conference.

What is Planning?

  • Developing a vision for the community’s future by involving all segments of the city or county. This vision, translated into a comprehensive plan, must be updated approximately every 10 years to maintain its Qualified Local Government (QLG) status with Georgia DCA, and thereby be eligible for various grants and other sources of funding.
  • To maintain QLG, a local government must update the Short Term Work Program (STWP) program of the comprehensive plan at least every 5 years (STWP identifies and schedules activities to be undertaken over a five-year period to implement the plan).
  • Planning should generate local pride and enthusiasm about the future of the community; engage the interest of citizens in implementing the plan; and provide a guide to everyday decision-making for use by local government officials and other community leaders.

What is the link between Planning and Zoning?

  • Zoning is one tool used by a community to implement a comprehensive plan, how and where a community is planned to grow, and at what densities is programmed into the zoning regulations.
  • Zoning keeps the land use equation consistent, allowing the development of community facilities and services to be consistent with the plan for their development, thus ensuring adequate facilities for the public.


  • There are three types of codes regulating construction: construction codes (building, mechanical, plumbing, etc); maintenance codes (housing codes); and land development codes (zoning, platting, and subdivision development standards).
  • Zoning text sets out the standards for development like lot sizes, setbacks, and buffers, permitted and conditional uses, and other specifications for how land is to be developed.
  • Zoning Map shows where these activities may take place such as commercial, residential, and industrial zoned areas.

Zoning Administration and the Law

  • Zoning is a basic power of the state and its political subdivisions to protect the health, safety, morals, and general welfare (Police Power). Regulations must bear a reasonable and substantial relationship to health, safety, morals, and general welfare.
  • Districts must be uniform. There must be a reasonable basis for designating areas differently. Zoning should cover all of the jurisdiction. Zoning must be reasonable as it applies to property.

Georgia Zoning Procedures Law

  • O.C.G.A. 36-66-1 et seq. Applies to all zoning ordinances or resolutions adopted on or after January 1, 1986.
  • It is the intention of this law to establish as state policy minimum procedures governing the exercise of that power. The purpose of these minimum procedures is to assure that due process is afforded to the general public when local governments regulate the uses of property through the exercise of the zoning power.
  • A local government taking action resulting in a zoning decision shall provide a hearing on the proposed action. At least 15 but not more than 45 days prior to the date of the hearing, the local government shall cause to be published within a newspaper of general circulation within the territorial boundaries of the local government a notice of the hearing.
  • The notice in the newspaper shall state the time, place, and purpose of the hearing. If a zoning decision of a local government is for the rezoning of property and the rezoning is initiated by a party other than the local government, then the notice shall include the location of the property, the present zoning classification of the property, and the proposed zoning classification of the property. In addition, a sign containing information required by local ordinance or resolution shall be placed in a conspicuous location on the property not less than 15 days prior to the date of the hearing.
  • If the zoning decision of a local government is for the rezoning of property and the amendment to the zoning ordinance to accomplish the rezoning is defeated by the local government, then the same property may not again be considered for rezoning until the expiration of at least six months immediately following the defeat of the rezoning by the local government.
  • The adoption of policies, procedures, and standards required by the Law must be adopted first. The public hearing for the policies, procedures, etc. may be held concurrent with the hearing required for the adoption of a zoning ordinance.
  • A zoning decision is defined by the Zoning Procedures Act as a legislative decision.
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