Brookhaven officials are scrambling to correct a flawed zoning map they adopted earlier this year.
City employees have discovered there are inconsistencies and missing files for many zoning changes made in DeKalb County before Brookhaven became a city.
“We believe there’s 20 years of missing case files from the county that were not transferred to us,” City Manager Marie Garrett said.
Council members voted Nov. 26 to begin a formal audit of the city’s zoning map. Garrett said staff is looking into bringing on an additional employee who will be dedicated to vetting the map. They do not know the extent of the inconsistencies.
“We will have to go parcel by parcel to vet this map. It will be a lengthy process,” said Planning Director Susan Canon.
Brookhaven officials say the official zoning map they adopted from DeKalb County was incorrect. But DeKalb County Planning and Sustainability Director Andrew Baker said there is no such thing as an official DeKalb zoning map – yet.
“The county does not have an official zoning map that shows each parcel with related zoning on it,” Baker said. “We’ve never had an official zoning map.”
Baker said the county has older maps and software systems that are used to record data about each of the parcels in the county. As part of the zoning code rewrite process, the county is upgrading to a Geographic Information System, or GIS, map. This electronic mapping would serve as an official zoning map and is expected to be completed by March 2014, Baker said.
Baker said what was given to Brookhaven was all of the zoning data and files related to parcels in the city limits.
“We never have had a zoning map to transfer to Dunwoody nor to Brookhaven,” Baker said. “It’s up to those jurisdictions to create a zoning map or zoning code or whatever they would choose to adopt.”
The problem with Brookhaven’s zoning map was highlighted by Ashford Park residents, who came to the council’s Nov. 26 meeting concerned about a home under construction in their neighborhood.
The residents told the council that while researching zoning in the neighborhood, they discovered that many of the lots had different zoning designations on the city’s zoning map than they did on the map on file in DeKalb County’s planning department.
Ashford Park resident Meredith Sasser told the council that she wants to know how the lots in the neighborhood were changed when the zoning data was handed over to the city.
“At some point earlier this year it was [zoned] R-100 and now it’s R-85,” Sasser said. “What I want to understand is how it was rezoned?”
Councilman Jim Eyre, who represents Ashford Park, attributes much of the confusion to the rush to get the city started.
“In haste to get our zoning code up and running, we didn’t take time to verify that zoning map we were given matched the zoning map on file in the Planning Department,” Eyre said. “We took what DeKalb sent and ran with it. Now that map, with all its warts and problems, is the official zoning map of Brookhaven.”
Eyre said the city has known there were mistakes in its zoning map since early this year.
“What I’m disappointed in is that once we did have the staff, once we knew there were mistakes, we didn’t move quickly to resolve them correct them and make them right,” Eyre said.
Canon said staff was working on the map before the Ashford Road situation. But it’s been a slow process because of the volumes of information they are working to organize.
“There’s quite a few boxes here,” she said.
Mike Edelson, the city’s GIS analyst, began finding missing information for many of the parcels when working on the GIS system for the city.
“Some came with tax parcel ID numbers and some did not,” Canon said. “When he was able to map them, he found some holes in the data. You don’t know they’re missing until you go to find them. That’s kind of what we discovered.”
Now, the city is planning to bring someone on board to vet the map full time.
“We don’t really know how many errors there currently are,” Canon said. “The only way to know is to go by parcel by parcel.”