HOECHSTETTER et al.
C. J., MILLER, P. J., and REESE, J.
Miller, Presiding Judge.
appeal presents us with a narrow issue of law: specifically,
what notice is required prior to a hearing that ultimately
results in a zoning decision - in this case the grant of a
conditional use permit. Under OCGA § 36-66-4 (a), notice
must be given at least 15 days but not more than 45 days
before the hearing. In this interlocutory appeal, we must
determine whether OCGA § 36-66-4 (a) requires
publication of notice of a hearing at every stage of the
permitting process. The trial court concluded that the notice
given prior to the planning commission's meeting was
sufficient and that additional notice was not required before
the Board of Commissioners ("the Board") voted on
the permit application three months later. As a result, the
trial court denied the appellants' motion for summary
judgment seeking to invalidate the conditional use permit.
For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
review the grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment
de novo, viewing the evidence and all reasonable conclusions
and inferences drawn from it in the light most favorable to
the nonmovant." Camden County v. Lewis, 298
Ga.App. 594, 595 (680 S.E.2d 621) (2009). We review questions
of law, such as the interpretation of a statute, de novo.
Joe Ray Bonding Co., Inc. v. State of Georgia, 284
Ga.App. 687, 688 (644 S.E.2d 501) (2007).
facts in this case are undisputed. Doug and Lynda Tatum own
about 75 acres of property in Pickens County. In August 2015,
they submitted a zoning request, seeking approval of a
conditional use permit that would allow them to use their
property for special events. Around October 15, 2015, the
Pickens County Planning Commission held a public hearing on
the permit application. The parties agree that the notice of
the hearing before the planning commission complied with OCGA
§ 36-66-4 (a). Following the hearing, the planning
commission recommended that the Board of Commissioners
("the Board") grant the permit with conditions.
January 7, 2016, the Board held a work session, during which
it considered the Tatums' request without taking a vote.
The Board then considered and granted the permit application
at its January 21, 2016 meeting. The only notice given prior
to the Board's January 21 meeting was a publication in
the county's legal paper that appeared the same day as
plaintiffs, all neighbors of the Tatums' property,
appealed the Board's decision to the Pickens County
Superior Court, arguing that the permit was invalid because
the Board failed to provide sufficient notice of the January
21 meeting under OCGA § 36-66-4 (a). The trial court
found that the notice provided was sufficient because the
Planning Commission hearing and Board meeting constituted a
"continuous course of a zoning matter, " which
required only a single hearing to meet the minimum due
process requirements. The trial court granted a certificate
of immediate review, and this Court granted interlocutory
review. The plaintiffs now appeal.
sole issue on appeal is whether the notice of the October 15,
2015 planning commission hearing was sufficient under OCGA
§ 36-66-4 (a) to allow the Board to approve the permit
at its January 21, 2016 meeting without an additional notice
within the statutorily prescribed time period.
Zoning Procedures Law ("ZPL"), specifically OCGA
§ 36-66-4 (a), provides that
[a] local government taking action resulting in a zoning
decision shall provide for a hearing on the proposed action.
At least 15 but not more than 45 days prior to the date of
the hearing, the local government shall cause to be published
. . . a notice of the hearing. The notice shall state the
time, place, and purpose of the hearing.
"zoning decision" means a "final legislative
action by a local government which results in . . . the grant
of a permit relating to a special use of property." OCGA
§ 36-66-3 (4) (E). "Local government" includes
any county, and counties are authorized to set their own
policies and procedures for conducting hearings under the
ZPL. OCGA §§ 36-66-3 (1); 36-66-5 (a). A failure to
adhere to the notice requirements of OCGA § 36-66-4 (a)
renders the zoning decision invalid. McClure v.
Davidson, 258 Ga. 706, 709 (3) (373 S.E.2d 617) (1988);
C & H Dev. v. Franklin County, 294 Ga.App. 792,
794 (1) (670 S.E.2d 491) (2008).
analyzing notice and hearing requirements under the ZPL, the
Supreme Court of Georgia has interpreted the phrase
"taking action resulting in a zoning decision" as
set forth in OCGA § 36-66-4 (a) to mean the "entire
process of changing or adopting a zoning ordinance."
City of Cumming v. Realty Dev. Corp., 268 Ga. 461,
463 (3) (491 S.E.2d 60) (1997). Under this interpretation, a
hearing is required at only one point during the process, but
not at every stage. Id. See also City of Roswell
v. Outdoor Systems, Inc., 274 Ga. 130, 131 (2) (549
S.E.2d 90) (2001) (reiterating that notice requirements do
not apply to every step of the zoning process and only one
hearing during the continuous course of zoning matter is
required). The Supreme Court of Georgia has also found notice
sufficient where there was notice of the county
commission's meeting in which the permits were initially
considered, even though the commission did not take any final
action until a month later. See Powers Ferry Civic Assn.
v. Life Ins. Co. of Ga., 250 Ga. 419, 420 (2) (297
S.E.2d 477) (1982).
Pickens County, the Planning Commission has the authority to
conduct public hearings on applications for conditional use
permits, and there must be adequate notice of this hearing,
in accordance with OCGA § 36-66-4 (a). See Pickens
County Code of Ordinances § 67-15, Appendix A,
§§ 9.0, 14.
the Pickens County Planning Commission published notice of a
hearing after the Tatums filed their conditional use
application, and the parties stipulated that this notice
complied with OCGA § 36-66-4 (a). After the Planning
Commission recommended granting the permit, the Board
considered the ...