How to Keep Your Local Government

Out of Court

 

Presented by Frank Jenkins

February 2010 GAZA Conference

 

Notice of Public Hearing (application for rezoning by property owner)

- Notice published in a newspaper of general circulation within the territorial limits of the jurisdiction at least 15 days, but not more than 45 days, prior to the hearings.

- The notice must state the time, place, and purpose of the hearing.

- Notice shall include property location, current zoning of the property, and proposed zoning of the property.

- A sign placed in a conspicuous location on the property containing information is required not less than 15 days prior to the date of the hearing.

 

Public Hearing Procedures

- Local government is required to give equal time to both proponents and opponents of the zoning application. Each side shall have no less than 10 minutes.

 

Open and Public Meetings Act

- O.C.G.A. Chapter 50-14

- Who is subject to the act? Every county, municipality, commission, agency, board, department, or authority of each county or municipality.

- Any gathering of a quorum of the governing body or any committee of its members is required to be open to the public.

- Open meetings at a time or place other than that prescribed for regular meetings are pursuant to written notice at least 24 hours at the place of regular meetings and notice at least 24 hours to the legal newspaper if the meeting is not held at a time or place for regular meetings of the agency.

- Minutes of an open meeting shall be recorded not later than immediately following the next regular meeting of the agency. Minutes shall include names of the members present, a description of each motion or proposal, and a record of all votes.

 

Sign Ordinances

- Any sign ordiance which distinguishes between "off-premise" and "on-premise" signs violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Free Speech Clause of the GA Constitution.

- Having a time limit on political signs prior to and/or after an election is unconstitutional.

- Sign Ordinance must have a statement of purpose to satisfy the "substantial government interest' requirement under federal law.

 

Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA)

- No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly or institution

1) Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and

2) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest

- A zoning ordinance should not prohibit churches in zoning districts where private clubs and lodges were allowed as it violates the equal terms provision.

- A zoning ordinance should not permit certain secular assemblies as a matter of right, but require churches to obtain special use permits.