Recently, Georgia House Bill 302 and its companion, Senate Bill 172, generated some serious buzz. Although HB 302 failed to pass the House before Crossover Day and SB 172 failed to pass the Senate before Crossover Day, we know we haven’t seen the last of them. And it’s important to keep an eye on any progress these bills may make.
If passed, they would prevent citizens from determining how their community grows. This prohibition on local self-determination, which is currently exercised through their local government planning activities, will remove a community’s ability to establish how their community looks and feels and will place that authority in people in Atlanta and will likely make local home design decisions a purely profit based decision. Cities and counties across this state have been able to exercise this “home rule” authority for a long time and it should not be taken away by politicians from other parts of the state. Let the locals decide.
We’re concerned the bills could indirectly cause property values to decrease and lead developers and businesses to avoid areas that already have sensible guidelines, like ours. Bryan County’s recently-passed Interim Development Ordinance (IDO) contains standards for things like enhanced building safety standards – such as using construction materials with higher wind-zone resistance – as well as guidelines for aesthetic considerations, which helps us keep existing communities’ character. In addition, the IDO is part of our county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which was developed using a great deal of input from local citizens who weighed in on the process. We’re proud that local people helped us make decisions that affect our local communities. There simply is no reason to circumvent the opinions and requests of the residents who’ve let us know their feelings and have helped us shape our ordinances accordingly. The state doesn’t need to be involved.
Those in favor of the bills say that local regulations infringe on property owners’ rights and unnecessarily drive up the cost of construction. The regulations are not arbitrary, though. Any higher costs come because of the requirement for using safer materials. Given our area’s propensity for hurricanes, I think most residents are happy that we insist their houses be built solidly to withstand damage from such storms. We don’t insist on pricier materials without a very good reason for doing so.
I’m certainly not saying those things are guaranteed to happen, but we’d rather not present the opportunity for atrocities of that nature to transpire. Let’s eliminate the possibility for such garishness by opposing HB 302 and SB 172.
Allowing local citizens (through their local government) to exercise self-determination when it comes to residential properties protects everyone in many respects – from the required use of safe materials to appearance of our lovely communities. Bryan County is a beautiful mix of neighborhoods and housing options – let’s keep it that way.
Infinger is chairman of the Bryan County Commission.