Auburn’s city administrator and mayor again spoke out forcefully last week on proposed state legislation that would limit local governments’ ability to regulate housing construction.
During its Thursday, Feb. 20, work session, the city council was presented with a proposed resolution that would declare the city’s opposition to House Bill 302 and its companion Senate Bill 172. The council approved a similar resolution last year, backed by the Georgia Municipal Association and ACCG, as did the Winder City Council and Barrow County Board of Commissioners.
The latest resolution will be voted on by the council at its Thursday, March 5 meeting.
“Every year, we have battles where home rule is being eroded, which means the state gets to tell cities and counties what they can do and what they can’t do,” Mayor Linda Blechinger said. “And that is not the way our constitution is written. It’s pretty serious because it starts eroding a little bit every year. We need to take a stand against it.”
The legislation, which failed to make it to a floor vote in the state legislature last year, has been revived and seeks to prohibit local governments from regulating “building design elements” in single- or double-family dwellings. Local governments would not be able to regulate what materials and foundations are used to construct a home, nor the style and placement of windows, doors, garage doors, roofs and other elements. They also would not be able to regulate exterior color.
State- and federally-designated historic districts, mobile homes and neighborhood associations that establish rules and covenants would be exempt from the legislation.
The legislation has earned the backing of various home builder and real estate agent groups who have touted it as a way to keep housing costs down and achieve affordable home ownership without their hands being tied by local government regulations.
Blechinger said the city’s aim is not to “stomp on affordable housing.”
“What we’re trying to do is mix the best of both worlds,” she said. “We don’t want Auburn to be a paved-over cement city like Anywhere, USA. We want to stay Auburn. We’ve partnered with excellent architects and builders who get that and understand that. …A healthy community invites everyone to come in — your teachers, your firefighters, your police, your CEOs.”
Blechinger and city administrator Alex Mitchem said that design standard changes in the city have come with plenty of citizen input.
“We work tirelessly on our future plans and what we want the city to look like,” Mitchem said. “For someone who’s not local that wants to take advantage of the value we’ve created here by doing away with all the standards and using what materials they want, quite frankly, it’s insulting.”
Other items the council will vote on at its March 5 meeting include:
•a resolution declaring the city’s support for the proposed Georgia Local Government Infrastructure Finance Authority Act. The proposed state legislation would establish a finance authority that would provide local governments with cheaper financing through pooled revenue bonds to address infrastructure needs more quickly. The Winder City Council passed a resolution in support of the legislation earlier this month.
•a task order to “dewater” the raw water storage pond at the Martin Marietta quarry as part of the project by Auburn and the City of Winder to have a joint water supply reservoir. The water needs to be removed in order for surveying and preliminary engineering to be performed at the site. The task order is for project consultant Hayes James and Associates to assist with obtaining proposals for the work for an amount not to exceed $7,655.
•a proclamation encouraging residents to participate in the upcoming U.S. Census. Census Day is April 1. The proclamation notes that population totals determine people’s representation in Congress and federal funding, and factors into how legislative and school district lines are drawn.
•a new social media policy for the Auburn Police Department. Chief Chris Hodge said the department’s current internet usage policy “doesn’t go as far as it needs to” with establishing guidelines for social media activity. He said the goal of the policy is to make sure employees conduct themselves responsibly and ethically without damaging the department’s or city’s reputation.
•a proposal by local Boy Scout Tony Albin to install three fitness stations along the walking trail at Shackleford Park to satisfy his Eagle Scout project requirement.
The council, during the Feb. 20 work session, approved an updated service-delivery strategy agreement with Gwinnett County and met in closed session to discuss pending litigation. No votes resulted from that session.