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  • March 17, 2018

General Assembly threatens local safety ordinances - Dunwoody Crier: News

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General Assembly threatens local safety ordinances

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Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2018 8:00 am

The area’s new cities are learning from another perspective that they are creatures of the Georgia General Assembly. They were created by it and can be usurped by it. And they are learning that even when a Republican-controlled legislature asserts local control in most matters, sometimes the lawmakers don’t mean it.

So it is that Dunwoody and Sandy Springs find themselves fighting the State Capitol over a bill that challenges city building standards.

Simply put: The cities’s codes require that buildings of more than three stories be constructed of steel and masonry instead of wood. In the city’s reckoning the sturdier structures, while more costly, are safer and have longer lives as quality buildings.

Mayor Rusty Paul of Sandy Springs and his fire chief have spoken out on the matter and now Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal has written his local state senator in opposition to HB 876, a bill eliminating the local ordinances. It passed the state House 125-43.

Shortal’s letter came after Councilor Terry Nall used his newsletter to alert the public. He authored Dunwoody’s code change in 2014.

“Dunwoody legislation was opposed by members of the development community that valued profits over life safety,” Nall said. “I see this misguided opposition has not changed, as today’s support for HB 876 is only from the deep pockets of the timber industry and low-quality developers.” 

Nall said Dunwoody values life safety first, along with quality.

Shortal wrote Millar that the bill sponsored by timber interests sets a minimum statewide standard, ignoring circumstances where a higher standard should be met for safety and welfare of citizens.

For his part, Millar is attempting to amend the House bill to grandfather cities that use the stiffer requirements for buildings more than three stories tall. He said he doesn’t believe the bill can be killed. When he took the matter to the Senate Agriculture Committee he was met by a number of senators with timber mills in their districts.

In another matter that touches on local control, Shortal and the Dunwoody city council have written a state legislator to oppose a Senate bill now in the House that would override local efforts to control the placement of pole installations for what are called small cell towers.

Shortal said the bill curtails neighborhood and city efforts to have underground utilities and gives nearly unlimited access to rights-of-way. He said the billl “guarantees countless new poles” along city streets.

The proliferation of new cell tower poles is likely, he said, because the bill exempts Georgia Power and the Georgia Department of Transportation from signing co-location requirements.

The status of the bill in the House is unclear.

© 2018 Dunwoody Crier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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