What is the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting?

After the Board of Commissioners meeting, the fifth, and final official public zoning meeting in unincorporated DeKalb County is the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting. The job of the Zoning Board of Appeals at this meeting is to review varianceA 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 requests and address any errors in a final order, requirement, or decision made by an administrative official. The board members will analyze the site plans from the developer or homeowner, hear public comments and review the decision made by the Board of Commissioners or Planning Administrator. After reviewing all materials, the board will vote based on their findings. The Zoning Board of appeals decision is legally binding and enforceable for the life of the zoning.

You can read the official action of the Zoning Board of Appeals on the official DeKalb Planning & Sustainability website.

DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting

Topics Covered in this section:

What are Variances?

A 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 build a 7-story building, but the zoning code only allows for 5-stories in that area. The developer can apply for a variance to raise the building height. Once the zoning is approved by the Board of Commissioners, the application then goes to the Zoning Board of Appeals to approve or deny the variance application.

Other examples of common variance requests include reduced parking requirements, reduced setbacksThe distance which a building is set back from a property line, street or road, a river or stream, or any other place which is deemed to need protection. Not to be confused with a Buffer. (allowing building closer to property line), increased density (adding more apartments than code allows) or reduced green space.

To see an example list of variances for a recently approved mixed-use development, click here >>

What are Variances?

A 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 build a 7-story building, but the zoning code only allows for 5-stories in that area. The developer can apply for a variance to raise the building height. Once the zoning is approved by the Board of Commissioners, the application then goes to the Zoning Board of Appeals to approve or deny the variance application.

Other examples of common variance requests include reduced parking requirements, reduced setbacks (allowing building closer to property line), increased density (adding more apartments than code allows) or reduced green space.

Click here to see an example list of variances for a recently approved mixed-use development.

When and where is the meeting held?

The Zoning Board of Appeals meeting is a formal public hearing held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. These meetings are scheduled in the afternoon at 1:00pm 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.

You can find the complete Zoning Board of Appeals schedule on the DeKalb Planning website here [PDF].

Parking

Street parking is available all around the Maloof Auditorium in downtown Decatur for a fee in the afternoon. You can pay 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! Also, the DeKalb County Courthouse parking deck (located directly across the street) is $6 all day.

Who are the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals?

The Zoning Board of Appeals is an appointed group of citizens made up of seven (7) members. Similar to the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals is a paid (part-time) staff position. Each of the 7 District Commissioners (5 District Commissioners & 2 Super-District Commissioners) appoints a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Each member must live in the district of their appointing commissioner and can serve as long as their commissioner is in office or a successor is appointed. They also must complete a county-sponsored training session.

You can find a current roster of Zoning Board of Appeals members on the DeKalb County Planning website here [PDF] (Updated January 10, 2017)

What happens during the meeting?

This formal public meeting is similar to the Board of Commissioners meeting.

A typical Zoning Board of Appeals 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 Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners meetings. The Zoning Board of Appeals 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 board

Once the applicant has completed their presentation, the Zoning Board of Appeals 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 Zoning Board of Appeals members 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.


A motion is made and a vote is recorded

After the the developer has made their presentation and the public input is heard, the Zoning Board of Appeals members will consider all options and vote based on their findings. Their decision is legally binding and enforceable for the life of the zoning.

Zoning Board of Appeals Voting Options:

Because each appeals application is unique, the board members 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:

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.

30-Day Deferral

Delaying an application for further review for 30 days to be heard again at the next zoning Board of Appeals meeting. This is typical if an appeals application needs more consideration by the board.

60-Day Deferral

Delaying an application for further review for 60 days. This is common if an appeals application requires more studies or a site visit from the board or an appropriate authority.

Denial

Full denial of an appeal or variance request forces the applicant to change their site plan.

Withdrawal Without Prejudice

An appeals application withdrawn without prejudice simply means it can be resubmitted at a later date. A developer will sometimes voluntarily choose Withdrawal Without Prejudice if they have a change of site plan that doesn't require the variance.

Zoning Board of Appeals Voting Options:

Because each appeals application is unique, the board members 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:

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.

30-Day Deferral

Delaying an application for further review for 30 days to be heard again at the next zoning Board of Appeals meeting. This is typical if an appeals application needs more consideration by the board.

60-Day Deferral

Delaying an application for further review for 60 days. This is common if an appeals application requires more studies or a site visit from the board or an appropriate authority.

Denial

Full denial of an appeal or variance request forces the applicant to change their site plan.

Withdrawal Without Prejudice

An appeals application withdrawn without prejudice simply means it can be resubmitted at a later date. A developer will sometimes voluntarily choose Withdrawal Without Prejudice if they have a change of site plan that doesn't require the variance.

Zoning Board of Appeals 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 Board of Appeals. 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).

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Learn more!

Now that you’re familiar with the Zoning Process,
let’s look at some questions you can ask an applicant…