Local zoning fight may spur changes
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Georgia Representative Doug Holt continues to work toward reform in area zoning cases that come up for judicial review. At issue is the Buckhead LLC decision in Morgan County Superior Court in late 2006, which allowed developers to acquire a higher-density zoning change that had been denied by Morgan County commissioners.
Holt has been particularly concerned about the case because an earlier Georgia case, Tyrone v. Tyrone LLC (2002), may have set precedent that was not reviewed for the local decision. A Georgia appellate court declined to review the case in 2007.
Holt prepared a bill for the state legislature that would have required zoning law decisions to be eligible for automatic appellate review, but that bill has not yet been passed, so he sought other means of achieving his objective, which is better judicial preparedness.
“Two weeks ago, I met with Mr. Richard Reaves, who is the director of the state Institute of Continuing Judicial Education (ICJE),” wrote Holt in an e-mail earlier this week. “I explained what had happened in Buckhead, and the concern that the judge did not apply the Tyrone precedent in evaluating the case.”
Reaves, in a letter attached to Holt’s e-mail, indicates his intention of putting zoning law decisions into the ICJE’s curriculum proposal for the coming year.
“Currently, we would propose to have the presentation look at the standard of review set out in Barrett v. Hamby (1975) and Town of Tyrone v. Tyrone, LLC (2002), along with their subsequent caselaw progeny, together with a discussion of how to ‘factually mine’ and ‘procedurally supervise any case-at-bar, in order to assure that the correct standard is properly applied by the reviewing superior court,” wrote Reaves.
“Reaves does think that zoning in general, as well as these cases specifically, should be included in the next round of judicial education,” said Holt in a telephone interview last week. “Even if the bill I introduced doesn’t succeed, we can maybe get at this another way.”