COVINGTON - State Rep. Doug Holt, R-Covington, has succeeded in getting a course on zoning law on the curriculum for Superior Court Judge training at the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education.
Concerned that Superior Court judges may not be familiar with or may overlook zoning precedents set by the Georgia Supreme Court in ruling on local zoning decisions, Holt attempted to put those precedents into statute during the last legislative session.
When those efforts failed, he approached Richard D. Reaves, executive director of ICJE, in hopes of giving judges a review of the law.
Reaves recently informed Holt that a two-hour instructional block on zoning has been approved for the Winter 2009 Conference for Superior Court Judges, which will be held in January.
"I am pleased they will be covering it to make sure all Superior Court judges are aware" of the law, Holt said.
Of particular interest are Supreme Court precendents set in two zoning cases: Town of Tyrone vs. Tyrone, LLC (2002) and Barrett vs. Hamby (1975).
The ruling in Tyrone held that the question at hand in zoning cases is not whether rezoning would increase the value of the land, but whether the existing zoning classification could deprive the landowner without due process of law. In Barrett vs. Hamby, the court concluded that zonings should balance the detriment to the landowner with the benefit to the health, safety and welfare of the public.
Holt previously told the Citizen that zoning rulings often favor the landowner by addressing only whether the new zoning would increase the value of the property.
A zoning case in Morgan County inspired him to pursue the issue, he said.
Reaves, the ICJE director, agreed the issue was an important one in a letter he sent to Judge Bonnie Oliver, chair of the curriculum planning committee.
"While this adjudicatory task, compared to family law and criminal matters, is far from frequently encountered by most superior court judges, it usually reflects an arena of judicial practice that posesses high local interest when such a case does come to the court," he said. "In this respect, it is similar to judicial review of local election results and practices."
Crystal Tatum can be reached at email@example.com.