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Land Use Amendments

Land use in Habersham County is determined by the district the property is in. At present there are four classes of districts: Agricultural Protection, Low Intensity, Moderate Intensity, and High Intensity.

However, because properties change hands, neighborhoods fluctuate, and businesses come and go, districts may be altered from time to time. There are three stages to the map amendment (commonly called "zoning change") process:

  • Application: Through the Building and Planning Department
  • Review: By the Planning Commission
  • Hearing: By the Board of Commissioners

Land districts are determined by use, so if the property is to be utilized in a way not allowed by the current district, the owner must make a map amendment application through the Planning Department. Then the Planning Commission (a board specializing in planning and zoning issues) reviews the request in the light of the following criteria (reprinted from the Comprehensive Land Use Resolution which is available on this website or for $15 per copy from the Planning Department):

  1. The existing uses and land use intensity districts of nearby property and whether the proposed uses and district will adversely affect the existing use or usability of nearby property.
  2. The extent to which property values are diminished by the particular district restrictions.
  3. The extent to which the destruction of property values promotes the health, safety, morals or general welfare of the public.
  4. The relative gain to the public, as compared to the hardship imposed upon the individual property owner.
  5. The physical suitability of the subject property for development in the present district and under the proposed district.
  6. The length of time the property has been vacant, considered in the context of land development in the area in the vicinity of the property, and whether there are existing or changed conditions affecting the use and development of the property which give supporting grounds for either approval or disapproval of the request.
  7. The extent to which the proposed district will result in a use which will or could cause excessive or burdensome use of existing streets, transportation facilities, utilities, schools, parks, or other public facilities.
  8. Whether the proposal is in conformity with the policy and intent of the comprehensive plan, land use plan, or other adopted plans.

Besides the above rules, other relevant factors may be taken into account by the Planning Commission as it develops its recommendation for the Board of Commissioners (the governing body authorized to make the final decision).

When the Commissioners hear the request, they weigh not only the Planning Commission's recommendation but also public opinion and the property owner's views. Based on what has been presented, the map amendment may be approved, disapproved, or tabled for later consideration.

Although not every land use district change is welcomed by everybody, map amendments are still a useful tool in providing the flexibility to respond to growth and change as they develop naturally.

For more information, see The Planning Commission and A Brief Overview of Land Use Districts.

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