Zoning ordinances in Georgia are local laws that are enacted by cities and counties and that regulate how a property owner in that jurisdiction can use the owner’s property.

A zoning ordinance creates a series of less intensive to more intensive categories of zoning.  Districts are laid out on a map of a county or city.  A land owner’s use of his property is restricted based on what is allowed on property in a particular category matching the use district where a property is located.

There are residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial zoning districts in Georgia jurisdictions.  Every count and city can set up its ordinance differently.  Each district will allow different uses.   FultonCounty adopted its first zoning resolution in 1955.  The Forsyth County Unified Development Code contains its zoning code.

In addition to restrictions on the type of use in a zoning district, setbacks, buffers, density, and lot size requirements are common.  “Setbacks” are distances from property lines for locating structures.   A property owner may be required to place a structure a certain distance from a back lot line or side lot line.

“Buffers” are areas measured usually as a distance from a lot line or boundary.   Zoning buffers usually require the maintenance of existing vegetation, or they may require the addition of vegetation, trees or screening where a lot.

Density restrictions affect how many structural units can be placed on a property in a particular zoning district.   Density restrictions work as lot size requirements where a subdivision is independently zoned prior to development.  Density restrictions are related to restrictions on the amount of impervious surface limitation on a lot.

Zoning can involve special permissions a property owner may seek.  “Variances” are usually defined as a special permission to relax a setback or buffer restriction due to a hardship resulting from the size, shape or topography of a lot.

“Special use permits, conditional use permits, and special exceptions” are all different names for the same type of permit that will allow a particular land use in a district provided objective conditions are met.  Churches and schools are often allowed in certain districts by special use permit provided the applicant for the permit can establish that it meets the conditions for the permit.

The attorneys at Teague & Chambless have decades of experience in advising large associations, builders, developers, and homeowners and neighborhoods regarding zoning issues.   Stuart Teague has helped write proposed zoning laws and has represented all types of interests before administrative bodies and courts on zoning issues.

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