Cobb commissioners approve resolution asserting home rule on home design

February 28, 2019

MARIETTA — Cobb commissioners showed unanimous opposition Tuesday to proposed state legislation that would prevent local governments from adopting or enforcing building design guidelines for one- or two-family homes.

The board by a 5-0 vote passed a resolution expressing opposition to House Bill 302 and Senate Bill 172. The former is sponsored by state Rep. Vance Smith, a Republican from Pine Mountain in west Georgia, and would prevent local governments from having regulations concerning home building design, such as mandating a building’s color, type or style of exterior, location or architectural styling of windows and doors, and more. The latter bill is similar legislation which was introduced days after HB 302; its primary sponsor is state Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa.

Though Commissioner Bob Ott said the impetus behind the opposition was that the proposed legislation “smacks in the face of local control,” he said it could also allow a development to reverse course on design stipulations previously approved by the county.

“We’re told that if a developer voluntarily agrees to stipulations, that those would be in place,” Ott said. “But the concern is if midway through a project — and we’ve had some cases come in front of the board with this— where the developer just says, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore,’ or if we have a change in ownership or new developers who says ‘I’m not going to follow these,’ the way the law is currently being presented, the board would have no recourse to ensure those communities are developed in that format.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell echoed Ott’s local control concerns, adding that codifying the proposed legislation would be “a disaster for a community and surrounding neighborhoods.”

“You could get a mishmash of anything,” Birrell said, “and lower quality homes next to higher quality homes and devalue the property surrounding that.”