Friday, February 15, 2019

Georgia House Members Seek To Block Local Governments From Regulating Design Of Residential Housing

***Oconee County’s Foundation Rules A Target***

A bipartisan group of six members of the Georgia House of Representatives has introduced legislation that would prohibit local governments from adopting or enforcing ordinances regulating building design for one and two-family housing.

The proposed law is far reaching and has been called “mammoth pre-emptive legislation” by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. It also is opposed by the Georgia Municipal Association.

The law mentions specifically a prohibition against regulation of the types of foundation structures on one and two-family homes.

Oconee County has been in a battle with the housing industry over its decision in June of 2018 to prohibit slab foundations on most single-family housing and is the defendant in a lawsuit filed late last year on that decision.

Lead author on the proposed legislation is Vance Smith, a Republican from House District 133, north of Columbus, who is joined by three other Republicans, including House Majority Leader Jon Burns from Newington, north of Savannah.

Democrats Spencer Frye from Athens and Winfred Dukes of Albany also are sponsors of the bill.

HB 302

The six legislators filed the bill on Feb. 13. It was given first reading the next day.


The proposed legislation states that “No county or municipal corporation shall adopt or enforce any ordinance or regulation relating to or regulating building design elements as applied to one or two-family dwellings.”

The bill lists the “building design" elements of one or two-family dwellings that cannot be regulated by local governments.

These are exterior building color, type or style of exterior cladding material, style or materials of roof structures or porches, exterior nonstructural architectural ornamentation, location or architectural styling of windows and doors, including garage doors, the number and types of rooms, the interior layout of rooms, and types of foundation structures approved under state minimum standard codes.

Exceptions are made for historic districts or landmarks, regulations that are a requirement of applicable state minimum standard codes, the regulation of manufactured homes consistent with code for such homes, or ordinances adopted as a condition of participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.

The Association County Commissioners of Georgia staff analysis summarizes the impact of the proposed legislation by stating that, “In short, if a house meets state minimum standards building codes, it can be built” in the state’s 159 counties.

Committee Assignment

The bill is now before the 24-member Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, on which Dukes from Albany and Burns from Newington, both authors of the bill, serve.


Tom McCall, an Elberton farmer, is chair of that Committee and also one of the bill’s Republican sponsors.

Smith, the proposed legislation’s lead author, owns and operates Vance Smith Contracting and Consulting, according to his biography on the General Assembly website.

Smith’s company provides business development services and consulting to Pond, a major engineering and contracting company based in Atlanta and with offices and professionals across the U.S. and around the world, the biography states.

Another sponsor, Alan Powell, Republican from Hartwell, was chair of the Hart County Board of Commissioners prior to his election to the General Assembly.

Burns, the House majority leader, and his sons own and operate a diversified agribusiness company and the family farm, according to his biography.

Frye, who represents the 118th House District, is executive director for Athens Habitat for Humanity.

Dukes is chief executive officer of Dukes, Edwards and Dukes, Inc., a family owned construction and real estate firm based in Albany, according to his biography.

Slab Construction

The types of foundations allowed for residential construction has been a consistent issue in Oconee County during the last year.

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners, at its June 5, 2018, meeting amended the county’s Unified Development Code to require that all new single-family detached homes in what are defined as “major subdivisions or phases of a major subdivision that have a final plat approved after January 1, 2018, shall be constructed with either crawlspace or basement foundations.”

The Board voted unanimously on July 3 to turn down a rezone request for a 77-lot subdivision on Rocky Branch Road across from Old Waverly subdivision. SR Homes of Atlanta planned to build the homes.

Commissioners gave no reason for the denial, but they took the action after the attorney presenting the case for the rezone would not agree to construct the homes on foundations with crawl spaces or basements.

At its meeting on Nov. 6, the Board turned down an appeal by SR Homes of an administrative decision prohibiting use of slab foundations on several lots in Pebble Creek Subdivision on SR 15 in the south of the county.

On Dec. 21, 2018, SR Homes filed suit against the county contending that the county had behaved improperly in denying the use of slab foundations in Pebble Creek subdivision. That suit is pending.


Zippity said...

State government trying to prohibit local governments from governing in response to their citizens.

Anonymous said...

WHAT???? This is crazy. I hope smarter people in the legislature will not let this bill pass.

Xardox said...

As near as can be told, this legislation amounts to the construction industry dictating to the representatives on how to maximize their profits.
This represents yet another collision between good and proper community standards vs. individual property owners' rights.
Can a community smaller than the State expect legal protection on certain standards? It all depends on whose ox is getting gored.

Anonymous said...

Bill will pass. House Representative 119 for parts of Oconee County will fall all over himself to vote yes. $50, 000+ in campaign donations means you vote the way they tell you.
Developers and all the side “businesses” want to bulldoze through the county with out of control development. The elected officials in our county allow it by disregarding the UDC (Unified Development Code), Land Maps and vote for questionable variances and near zero lot lines. The bait and switch methods used in the BOC meetings is laughable.
Take a look at your county-it will not be the same.

JP said...

Great coverage, thanks Lee !

Anonymous said...

Well, how dare the state try to make housing affordable for everyone. Not everyone can afford a basement. It does add considerably to the cost of a home.

Anonymous said...

I am all for local government being able to decide what happens locally but I am also for consumers having ability to decide how they want their home built. There are advantages and disadvantages to each foundation type. I don't understand why slab foundations are undesirable compared to basement or crawlspace.

Anonymous said...

This is an attempt by local governments to drive up the prices in order to keep "those people" from moving in. Just look at the demographics of the ones enacting design standards. Forsyth County is the latest to do this and we know what goes on up there.

Anonymous said...

I live in Oconee County, in a neighborhood that has houses built with basements or the raised structure amount the county calls for. Based on that my neighborhood consists of “those people” who have purchased said houses and made homes in Oconee. Great neighbors and neighborhood.

Earthsavor said...

Frye and other sponsors justify their preemptive legislation upon protecting the rights of individuals, as do anarchists. That is indeed a slippery slope. But the truth is that development is the second largest industry in Georgia, and its money talks. Too bad Spencer has forgotten that construction and design standards protect our collective welfare, and that is what he was elected to represent.

The Oconee Co. standards require foundations for subdivision residences because slab construction encourages mass grading and imposes inevitable costs of under-slab utility failure. HB302 in fact only adds to the profitability of development at the long-term expense of both individual home ownership and community resource values, including groundwater-recharge and soils quality.

A good engineering comparison of foundation types is at:

The BOC is to be commended for its long-sighted recognition that slab construction is detrimental to housing values and resource sustainability.

Anonymous said...

This law can't pass soon enough!

Anonymous said...

Further proof that when it comes down to it, there isn't a dimes worth of difference between the GOP and Democrats. Everything is for sale. It's really a grand old party for everyone as long as you're a member of the club.
If this law passes, someone should build a 3 story, tar paper shack on Cloverhurst. the law will change shortly after.

Anonymous said...

Build a tar paper shack next to lthe egislators who sponsor and vote for bill and the development group that is funding their future campaigns.