Saying they were following the will of its citizens, members of the Brookhaven City Council on Oct. 28 voted against an amendment to the zoning ordinance for concurrent variances.
The amendment would have allowed for rezoning applicants to file a variance concurrently with the rezoning petition. Variances are currently generally heard and decided by the zoning board of appeals. But if passed, the amendment would have allowed the variance to go before the city council along with the rezoning petition, skipping the zoning board.
“This has certainly created a stir in the city of Brookhaven,” said councilman Bates Mattison, who said a lot of citizens have voiced concerns that too much power would be shifted from the zoning board to the council. “We don’t want to do things this city is not comfortable with.”
Opponents have also said that the amendment would limit public participation in the rezoning process, but the city maintained that a public hearing for a concurrent variance would be held at city council.
Corey Self, chair of the zoning board, said that while he saw pros and cons to the amendment, he was ultimately against it.
He told the council that the current process needs work, explaining that when a variance comes before the zoning board, the board is not aware if it was part of a rezoning case.
“The planning commission and zoning board of appeals would be better served to have knowledge of what is at stake,” he said.
He added that right now zoning cases with variances have three chances to come before the public with the planning commission, city council and zoning board. But if the zoning board is cut out, the opportunities are reduced to two.
“For that reason alone your vote should be no,” he said.
Mattison said the current system should remain a “work in progress.”
Mayor J. Max Davis said he was uncomfortable with the amendment because he felt like citizens didn’t fully understand it.
“If the citizens don’t understand every aspect of it I don’t feel comfortable with it,” he said. “I think it’s wise we don’t adopt it at this time.”
Councilmember Joe Gebbia said he didn’t think an amendment was necessary. “I think we have a system that’s working well now,” he said.