What is the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners Meeting?

After the Planning Commission meeting, the fourth, and many times final, official public zoning meeting in unincorporated DeKalb County is the Board of Commissioners meeting. The job of the County Commissioners at this meeting is to review and decide on rezoning, special land use permits (SLUPs), and land use amendment requests. Your Commissioners will analyze the site plans from the developer, hear public comments and review the recommendations made by the Planning Staff, Community Council and Planning Commission. After reviewing all materials, the Board of Commissioners will vote based on their findings. Unlike the Community Council or Planning Commission, which makes a non-binding recommendation, the Board of Commissioners decision is legally binding and enforceable for the life of the zoning.

You can read the official action of the Board of Commissioners in the official DeKalb Zoning Ordinance (Section 7.3.8)

When and where is the Board of Commissioners meeting held?

The Board of Commissioners zoning meetings are held in the evenings at 6:30pm in the Manuel Maloof Auditorium in downtown Decatur (1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur, GA 30030). The meeting dates and times are scheduled a full year in advance. Similar to the Planning Commission meeting, the Board of Commissioners meeting is a formal public hearing.

You can find the complete Board of Commissioners zoning schedule on the DeKalb Planning website here [PDF]. (Updated November, 2016)

Parking

Street parking is free after 6pm everywhere in downtown Decatur. If you arrive early, you can pay for street parking using a meter on the street, or you can download the free Parkmobile app for your phone. You’ll need to know your vehicle tag number for either option! The DeKalb County Courthouse parking deck (located directly across the street) is $6 all day.

Who are the members of the Board of Commissioners?

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners is a group of seven (7) members, whom are elected by the public every 4 years. Each of the 7 Commissioners (5 District Commissioners & 2 Super-District Commissioners) will cast a vote on each zoning agenda item.

You can find the current elected Board of Commissioner on the DeKalb County Government website.

Find out who your County Commissioner(s) are and what district(s) you live in!

What happens during the Board of Commissioners meeting?


This formal public meeting is similar to the Planning Commission meeting.

DeKalb County Board of Commissioners Meeting

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners deliberate on an agenda item at a zoning meeting.

A typical Board of Commissioners meeting includes zoning applications from each of the 5 districts in DeKalb County. The applicant of each zoning item, usually a developer, investor or landowner, has 10 minutes to make a presentation supporting their application. These presentations are similar to the ones made during the Community Council  & Planning Commission meeting. The Board of Commissioners meeting is a formal public meeting and the 10 minute time limit is very strict. The applicantRefers to a developer, investor or landowner who is seeking a change in zoning or land use to their property. can choose to use all 10 minutes when making their presentation, or instead, opt to use only part of it and save the remaining minutes for rebuttal time (an allotment of time to respond to public comments).


Public comments are then heard by the Commission

Once the applicant has completed their presentation, the Board of Commissioners presiding officer will open the floor hear comments from the public. These are divided into two groups: (1) people who support the application and (2) people who oppose the application. Similar to the time given to the applicant, each side is given 10 minutes to express their support or opposition with the application. Again, the 10 minute time limit is strict and each side is expected to stay within the limit.

A speaker card is required

Before you can speak in support or opposition, you must fill out and present a speaker card. These cards are located at the front door when you walk in.

Each speaker's name is recorded in the Board of Commissioners minutes, along with their designation for support or opposition.

DeKalb County Speaker Card

A speaker card is required

Before you can speak in support or opposition, you must fill out and present a speaker card. These cards are located at the front door when you walk in.

Each speaker's name is recorded in the Board of Commissioners minutes, along with their designation for support or opposition.

DeKalb County Speaker Card

The County Commissioners depend on your input

Because of the time restrictions, it’s important that you use your time efficiently and effectively when you speak. Make sure your comments are clear and concise & try to get your point across as quickly as possible while staying on topic. It helps to have your comments written in advance so you can refer to them or read directly from them when you approach the podium. If you are part of a group such as your neighborhood, consider appointing a speaker to talk on behalf of the whole group. While your neighborhood representative is speaking, your entire group should stand to show support & solidarity. Having the fewest number of speakers representing the greatest number of people is always an effective approach.


Hearing the previous 
recommendations

After the public input is heard, the DeKalb County Zoning Administrator will then present the Planning Staff Recommendation as well as the previous recommendations from the Community Council & Planning Commission. The Board of Commissioners will use these recommendations, along with the public input and the presentation of the developer, to make their final decision about rezoning the property. Unlike the Community Council or Planning Commission, which makes a non-binding recommendation, the Board of Commissioners decision is legally binding and enforceable for the life of the zoning.

Board of Commissioners Voting Options:

Because each zoning application is unique, the Board of Commissioners can choose a variety of voting options as needed by the item. There are 6 common options that are often used to make their final decision, however, there are variations from time to time. Let’s look closely at the common options and how they can affect an application. Afterwards, we’ll look at some variations that may happen…

Approval

Acceptance of a resolution or application.

Approval with Conditions

Acceptance of a resolution or application but with conditionsConditions are a set of additional written rules or regulations that can be added to a zoning application. Zoning conditions may be requested by an applicant, recommended by the planning department... More attached, setting additional rules & regulations to the application.

Two-Week Deferral

Delaying an application for further review for two weeks, to be heard again at the next Board of Commissioners regular morning meeting; typically without additional public comment. This is common if a zoning application needs a little more work, but not enough to result in a full-cycle deferral. The public hearing at the next Board of Commissioners regular meeting starts at 10am!

Full-Cycle Deferral

Delaying an application for further review to the next cycle, sending it back to be re-heard again by the Community Council, Planning Commission, and ultimately, the Board of Commissioners. Full-cycle deferrals are usually a result of incomplete or complicated site plans or a need to allow additional public input.

Denial

If an application for rezoning is denied, then no portion of the same property may be considered for rezoning again for 2 years (24 months).

Withdrawal Without Prejudice

A zoning application withdrawn without prejudice simply means it can be resubmitted at a later date. A developer will sometimes voluntarily choose Withdrawal Without Prejudice when they think the application could be denied by the Board of Commissioners. This lets them avoid the 2-year moratorium on rezoning the property.

Voting Variations:

In some circumstances, the commissioners might find it appropriate to make an alternative motion such as a 30 day deferral or a two-week deferral with public comments. It’s not uncommon for an applicant or the general public to request a specific request such as these, and it’s up to the commissioners to grant these requests.

Board of Commissioners Voting Options:

Because each zoning application is unique, the Board of Commissioners can choose a variety of voting options as needed by the item. There are 6 common options that are often used to make their final decision, however, there are variations from time to time. Let’s look closely at the common options and how they can affect an application. Afterwards, we’ll look at some variations that may happen…

Approval

Acceptance of a resolution or application.

Approval with Conditions

Acceptance of a resolution or application but with conditions attached, setting additional rules & regulations to the application.

Two-Week Deferral

Delaying an application for further review for two weeks, to be heard again at the next Board of Commissioners regular morning meeting; typically without additional public comment. This is common if a zoning application needs a little more work, but not enough to result in a full-cycle deferral. The public hearing at the next Board of Commissioners regular meeting starts at 10am!

Full-Cycle Deferral

Delaying an application for further review to the next cycle, sending it back to be re-heard again by the Community Council, Planning Commission, and ultimately, the Board of Commissioners. Full-cycle deferrals are usually a result of incomplete or complicated site plans or a need to allow additional public input.

Denial

If an application for rezoning is denied, then no portion of the same property may be considered for rezoning again for 2 years (24 months).

Withdrawal Without Prejudice

A zoning application withdrawn without prejudice simply means it can be resubmitted at a later date. A developer will sometimes voluntarily choose Withdrawal Without Prejudice when they think the application could be denied by the Board of Commissioners. This lets them avoid the 2-year moratorium on rezoning the property.

Voting Variations:

In some circumstances, the commissioners might find it appropriate to make an alternative motion such as a 30 day deferral or a two-week deferral with public comments. It’s not uncommon for an applicant or the general public to request a specific request such as these, and it’s up to the commissioners to grant these requests.

Understanding Deferrals

There are 2 different types of deferrals that are commonly requested. A full-cycle deferral delays an application for further review to the next cycle, sending it back to be re-heard again by the Community Council, Planning Commission, and ultimately, the Board of Commissioners. Full-cycle deferrals are usually a result of incomplete or complicated site plans or a need to allow additional public input.

Alternately, a two-week deferral delays an application for further review for two weeks, to be heard again at the following Board of Commissioners meeting without additional public comment. This is typical if a zoning application needs a little more work, but not enough to result in a full-cycle deferral. The next Board of Commissioners meeting is a regular morning meeting, not a zoning meeting. This morning meeting starts at 10am and zoning items are typically ‘For Decision Only’, meaning no public comments will be allowed for that agenda item. General public comments are allowed at the beginning of the morning meeting in a short, 30-minute time allotment. In order to speak during this general comments portion, you must complete and submit a yellow speaker card, which are limited and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Unlike the zoning meetings, which allows 10 minutes for public comments, morning meeting comments are limited to 3 minutes each. Get there early and grab a speaker card if you’re interested in speaking!

Once an application has gone through a complete, full-cycle deferral, it’s unlikely (but not impossible) to be re-granted another full-cycle deferral by the commissioners. If an application needs even more time after a full-cycle deferral, a two-week deferral is a more common option.

Watch the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners meetings live on DCTV Channel 23

Can’t attend the meeting? Watch it on TV!

Each evening zoning Commission meeting, along with regular morning Commission meetings are broadcast on DCTV Channel 23. This public access channel is broadcast on Comcast channel 23 throughout the entire DeKalb County area.

You can find the DCTV online live stream, broadcast schedule and on-demand video on the DeKalb County Government website.

Board of Commissioners Meeting Pro Tips:

Remember these important tips to ensure a successful meeting.

Fill out a speaker card

If you plan on speaking in favor or in opposition to an application, you must fill out a speaker card before you approach the podium! These cards, along with the agenda are available at the front door when you walk in.

Prepare your remarks in advance

It's helpful to have a prepared speech or written notes when you address the Commissioners. This will help you stay on point and cover as many important topics as possible!

Assign a speaker

If you're part of a group or neighborhood, consider assigning a speaker to represent the the whole group. Have your entire group stand when your speaker is talking to show support and solidarity in the group.

Consider wearing matching colors

Sometimes it helps make a clear point when your group wears matching shirt colors, such as green (for support/go) or red (for oppose/stop).

Try to eat before the meeting if possible

Commission meetings can run late (typically between 10pm & 11pm). Eating a meal before the meeting will supply you with energy and attentiveness in case your meeting runs longer than expected.

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Next Step!

The next public meeting is the Board of Appeals meeting.
Learn how variancesA zoning variance can be requested by the developer to provide flexibility by allowing variations from the zoning ordinance. For example, a developer building a large mixed-use project wants to ... More are heard and resolved….

Next Step!

The next public meeting is the Board of Appeals meeting.
Learn how variances are heard and resolved….