Cobb County's new Unified Code Development and what it means for residents

Gené Hunter

(ATLANTA, Ga.) Cobb County commissioners have recently received a series of emails about the proposed use of a “Unified Development Code” (UDC) to guide the county in future zoning and land use issues. The UDC is a tool often used by local governments to streamline procedures and avoid overlapping regulations.

“Currently the county has hundreds of pages of documents that regulate development in the county,” said Jessica Guinn, Cobb’s Community Development Director. “Many of these regulations were written decades ago. It is time to take a fresh look at our standards and to streamline and improve the process.”

A UDC is a single regulatory document that guides development within a jurisdiction. This may include zoning and subdivision regulations, infrastructure requirements, design guidelines, landscaping standards and sign regulations.

Cobb County currently has two primary documents that regulate development: the County Code of Ordinance and the Cobb County Development Standards. In addition to these regulatory documents, the County has also adopted design guidelines to offer additional standards for design, architecture, landscape, etc. in targeted areas of the County. In their entirety, these documents consist of several hundred pages, which are often overlapping and sometimes inconsistent. A unified development code would streamline these documents into one combined document that would be more easily accessible to the public, designers, and County staff reviewers.

Cobb is now considering moving towards a UDC format due to the shift of the county’s zoning ordinance. Cobb County has transitioned from a bedroom community into a metropolitan county of nearly 800,000 residents.

Through the new initiative, the County’s current zoning and development regulations will be reviewed to reflect new uses and technologies that were not contemplated when the code was initially drafted decades ago, as well as pare down uses and zoning districts that are no longer utilized. It will also include an examination of requirements such as parking standards, landscaping standards and infrastructure standards.

Once a consultant is selected and approved by the Board of Commissioners, the project will begin in earnest and is expected to take approximately 18-24 months to complete. The selected consultant will be charged with planning and executing a community engagement process that will provide numerous opportunities for residents, homeowners, and civic associations, and businesses and business organizations to be informed and to provide feedback into the process, as well as to review and comment on draft work products throughout this initiative.

In addition to town hall meetings, public hearings, and focus groups, there will be opportunities for online engagement, as well as a project website, with the goal being to provide ample opportunities for all of Cobb County’s stakeholders to be involved and provide meaningful input.

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