JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Changes could be on the way for Johns Creek’s zoning ordinance, as the City Council works to align the regulations with the 2018 Comprehensive Plan.
Zoning ordinances are meant to work together with the long-term vision outlined in the comprehensive plan to inform decisions about future land use. In Georgia, compliance with a comprehensive land use plan is one the six Steinberg criteria considered in any zoning case.
Last year, Johns Creek adopted its second comprehensive plan in its 11-year history. The plan is meant as a guide for the city for the next decade.
The 2018 plan reaffirmed a commitment to low-density, single-family-home subdivisions for the majority of the city’s footprint, while concentrating economic development in Technology Park.
It identified Tech Park and a few other smaller sites throughout the city as locales for mixed-used development, indicating Johns Creek will follow the walkable village trend that is catching on throughout the North Atlanta suburbs.
However, the comprehensive plan is toothless without coordination with zoning ordinances. The City Council named updating the ordinance a top priority for the Community Development department, behind stormwater infrastructure.
Community Development staff identified several new definitions and changes to the zoning ordinance for the council to consider.
For residential areas, the biggest proposed change is a new requirement to have open space in any residential development. The amount of required open space varies by the density of the development.
“We know that open space enhances the quality of life by providing recreation opportunities for our residents,” Interim Community Development Director Kimberly Greer said. “It provides an opportunity for people to congregate.”
Open space is defined as community space with either active recreational uses, such as tennis courts or a swimming pool, or passive uses, such as trails, but does not include required buffers or detention ponds.
The comprehensive plan vision most in conflict with the current zoning ordinance is the goal to created walkable, mixed-use business hubs at specific locations within the city.
“It’s not letting this loose citywide,” Greer said. “But in those specific areas, if we want to actually encourage what you envisioned in your comp plan, you need to make sure the text in the zoning ordinance matches that.”
The first draft of the amendment also changes the requirements for revitalizing shopping centers and creates definitions and requirements for multi-use trails.
Any amendments to the city zoning ordinance faces a potentially lengthy journey before it can be adopted. First, the council must agree with the recommendations of the community development department or make their own changes.
Next, the amendment goes to the Planning Commission, where members can make their own recommendations and adjustments. Then, it goes back before council for a final decision.
This process began June 17 at a City Council meeting where council members, notably Stephanie Endres, gave their input on the first draft of an amendment.
Endres suggested changes to some definitions, areas where developers could be given less discretion, and eliminating some of the allowable uses in a mixed-use district.
The zoning ordinance amendment is expected to be discussed at the council’s next work session, July 8 at 5 p.m.