Atlanta, GA

Legislature’s effort to encumber upzoning falters, but city reform plans still unclear

The Georgia statehouse.Sean Keenan

A statewide zoning bill that would have further encumbered local efforts to increase residential density failed to cross the finish line when the Georgia General Assembly wrapped up the legislative session on Monday.

House Bill 1406, which would have mandated additional hearings and public input before municipalities could rezone single-family properties, was approved by the state House March 9, but its Republican backers couldn’t bring it to a Senate vote by the end of Sine Die on April 4, the last day of the 2021-2022 session.

State Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, told Atlanta Civic Circle last month that the bill intended to increase transparency and accountability for local governments seeking to rezone residential property that traditionally allow only single-family homes. Martin did not respond to Atlanta Civic Circle’s inquiry regarding whether he’d reintroduce the bill next year.

But opponents called it a solution in search of a problem that would stunt efforts to increase housing density and diversity and, thus, affordability.

Expanding zoning for residential areas to allow taller or denser development, such as apartments and tiny homes, already faces an uphill battle. When Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi tried last year to pass a city ordinance to upzone residential properties near MARTA stations, pushback from community groups hobbled the proposal. It was effectively killed by the council’s zoning committee in December.

Farokhi, who declined to comment for this story, told Atlanta Civic Circle late last year that his proposal was “not radical” and could make a comeback in 2022. But the recent departure of city planning chief Tim Keane, who helped the councilman develop the proposed ordinance as part of a wide-ranging zoning code update, adds uncertainty to the mission.

Atlanta Civic Circle.

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