Frequently Asked Questions
What is a unified development code (UDC)?
A unified development code (UDC) is a single regulatory document that guides development within a jurisdiction. A UDC combines different regulations that are often found scattered throughout a local government’s code of ordinances. In Cobb County, regulations governing land development are included in multiple chapters of the Code of Ordinances, including not only Chapter 134: Zoning and Chapter 110: Subdivision, but also Chapter 66: Historic Preservation and Chapter 58: Floods. In the UDC, these provisions will be consolidated into one document and integrated so they are easier to understand and use.
The term “UDC” simply refers to a consolidated set of development regulations. It does not imply a certain type of development. Communities in Georgia that have UDCs include suburban and rural counties such as Forstyh County, Jackson County, Douglas County, and Oconee County.
Why does Cobb County need a unified development code?
Cobb County currently has two primary sources of development rules and regulations: the County Code of Ordinances, with applicable regulations scattered among separate chapters, and the Cobb County Development Standards. In addition to these regulatory documents, the County has also adopted design guidelines that impose additional design, architecture, and landscape standards in targeted areas of the County. These documents comprise hundreds of pages, and their provisions are often overlapping and frequently inconsistent. The new UDC will integrate and reorganize these documents, reducing duplication and eliminating inconsistencies and result in a new set of development regulations that are more concise and easier to understand for the public, development professionals, and County staff.
Why is Cobb County considering moving to a UDC now?
When Cobb County’s zoning ordinance was drafted decades ago, Cobb County was quite different than it is today. Over the years, Cobb County has transitioned from a bedroom community into a metropolitan county of nearly 800,000 residents. Cobb County offers a broad range of lifestyle options, from large-lot residential and suburban neighborhoods to bustling activity centers. The County boasts tremendous natural and historic resources, as well as regional employment hubs. There is truly something for everyone in Cobb, and it is important that the County’s development regulations are up to date to preserve the character of Cobb’s rural and suburban neighborhoods, protect natural and historic resources, provide a variety of housing options, as well as to encourage appropriate economic development and redevelopment in corridors and centers where the infrastructure is in place for business to thrive.
The Unified Development Code is not intended as a wholesale rewrite of the County’s zoning and development regulations and it is not an effort to rezone any part of the County. Through this effort, the County’s current zoning and development regulations will be reviewed to reflect new uses and technologies that were not contemplated when the code was initially drafted decades ago, as well as pare down uses and zoning districts that are no longer utilized. It will also include an examination of requirements such as parking standards, landscaping standards, infrastructure standards, among others. These regulations will be updated as appropriate and incorporated into the UDC in a manner that is streamlined and user-friendly.
Will the UDC impact my neighborhood or change zoning across the county?
Just as the current County Code and Development Standards regulate the development of all unincorporated areas of Cobb County, the UDC will provide the requirements for development throughout unincorporated Cobb. It will not, however, change the use of any piece of property.
The County’s Code and Development Standards are just one piece of the planning and development equation. Another key component is the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan is the long-range policy document that shapes the current and future development of the County for a twenty-year planning period. As required by the State of Georgia, the Comprehensive Plan is updated every 5 years and includes a Future Land Use Map that provides the basis for what type of development is best suited in each area of the County.
The Comprehensive Plan is the policy document that directs land use, and this document is referred to in informing zoning decisions. County Codes and Development Standards, along with the Design Guidelines, are the regulatory tools for the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan. Upon completion, the UDC will become the one-stop-shop for the County’s zoning and development regulations, and thereby become the regulatory tool for plan implementation.
Why can’t the codes be amended in-house through the typical code amendment process?
The County’s Code and Development Standards have been amended several times over the years to address immediate concerns; however, after several decades it is time to take a more comprehensive look at these regulations. There is a broad range of uses and technologies today that were not contemplated previously, such as short-term rentals, food truck parks, tiny houses, coworking spaces, e-fulfillment centers, and online retailers, rideshare, and drive-thru COVID testing, just to name a few. Similarly, the way we shop and do business is changing. With more Cobb residents shopping and doing business online, it is appropriate to look at the requirements for parking and infrastructure to ensure that the requirements are adequate without requiring more pavement than necessary. It will also be critical to look at the commercial centers throughout the County, including two major regional malls, and to make sure that the right tools are in place to allow for appropriate reuse or redevelopment of those centers so that those sites can be an asset to the surrounding neighborhoods rather than underutilized and potentially blighted properties.
With so much to consider, it will be crucial to have dedicated resources with the right expertise to ensure that the resulting UDC will be adequate to shape development in Cobb for the next several decades. This cannot be done without robust public outreach and feedback from Cobb’s residents and businesses. Cobb County’s Community Development Agency, which includes Planning, Zoning, Development and Inspections, Erosion and Sediment Control, Code Enforcement, and Business License, is a lean organization with a mission of substantial significance to all residents and businesses in the County. To do this work to the degree of thoroughness that is warranted, including significant community engagement, the County would need additional seasoned, professional-level staff, which would require a long-term commitment of the County’s budgetary resources.