Procedural Guidelines for MBPZ Hearings Jan 2020

Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission Procedural Guidelines Update

MBPZ conducts public hearings every second & fourth Monday of each month to hear and decide on rezoning & land use issues. To help you better understand our procedures for the hearings and to provide for a consistent hearing process that is fair to everyone involved, we have updated our procedural guidelines.

 Click here for the executive summary of MBPZ hearing guidelines

The following are procedural guidelines for Commission hearings on applications for rezonings, text changes, permits, certificates of appropriateness and appeals as well as violations and other matters. These guidelines are subject to and are supplemented by the procedural rules in the Macon-Bibb County Comprehensive Land Development Resolution (the “Resolution”), including Chapter 27, “Zoning Administration,” as well as other chapters. A copy of the entire Resolution is available on the Commission’s website (www.mbpz.org) as well as at www.municode.com. A hard copy of procedural provisions in the code, as well as standards for rezoning, permits and other matters, is available at the Commission offices upon request.

Open hearings | All Commission meetings and hearings are open to the public except where such hearings or meetings might be closed pursuant to the Georgia Open Meetings Act. Hearings shall take place during regular meetings, beginning at 1:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month, except where special meetings are necessary and called by the Commission. Notice of all hearings and meetings shall be given pursuant to Georgia law and the Resolution.

Information available prior to the Hearing | The Commission website contains hearing agendas, staff reports, and documents submitted by the applicant and opponents as they are filed and become available. Such documents are also available for review in hard copy upon request at the Commission offices. Hearings on applications shall be scheduled in accordance with applicable provisions of Chapter 27 of the Resolution.

Presiding Officer | The chair of the Commission or, in his or her absence, the vice-chair (or the chair’s designee if both the chair and vice-chair are unavailable) shall preside over each hearing.

Signing in | All persons must register with the Commission zoning staff if they wish to address the Commission, including the applicant and his or her representative(s), opponents and others. Persons who feel they may wish to ask questions of anyone addressing the Commission must also sign in. Registration may be done online at the Commission website or at the hearing.

Spokespersons | If a number of people are interested in an item, it is requested, though not required, that persons on each side confer and coordinate their testimony and choose one or two spokespersons to represent similar concerns, in order to avoid duplication of information. Time for presentation by each side will be limited, as noted below.

Oath | At the beginning of the meeting, all persons who have signed in to testify will be required to stand, raise their right hand and give an oath to testify truthfully. Persons seeking to testify who have not given such an oath at the beginning of this meeting will be required to do so prior to their testimony. All oaths will be taken by a person authorized to give such oaths under law. Any testimony at a hearing by persons who have not given an oath will not be considered evidence in the proceeding. Knowingly and willfully making a false statement in a proceeding after taking such an oath is a crime (false swearing) under state law.

Appearance at hearing | Applicants and/or their representative(s) shall appear in person at the hearing. The first failure to appear on an application will be treated as a deferral requested by the applicant. A subsequent failure to appear will be deemed a withdrawal of the application unless there are extenuating circumstances justifying the failure to appear.

Presentations | When an item is called, the Commission representative shall explain the nature of the application being considered and provide an oral presentation of the staff report, if requested by the Commission. Then, the applicant and its representative(s) and/or witnesses speaking in favor of the application shall give their presentation(s). After the presentation(s) in favor of the application, persons opposed to the application will be given an opportunity to make their presentation(s). Following those presentations, the applicant or its representative(s) may respond to the opponents’ presentations, subject to the applicant reserving some of its time for that purpose. Either side, or the Commission itself, may call witnesses. The Commission may at any time also request or allow presentation(s) or information from either Commission staff or the Commission attorney in order to clarify or supplement the record.

Time for presentations | Each side is allowed up to 15 minutes to make their presentation (including any response time); that is, 15 minutes per side, not per person. The applicant’s time will include any rebuttal time used by the applicant or its representative(s). If requested, additional time may be awarded if the Commission determines an extension is justified in the interest of fairness and/or obtaining a complete record. In any event, each side will be given equal time for presentation.

Timer | A timer located at the presenter’s seat is used to monitor the proceedings. The green light, when lit, indicates time is available to proceed with your presentation; the yellow light indicates that there is one-minute remaining; and lastly, the red light indicates time has expired.

Questions | After both sides have finished their presentations, the Commission, if requested, will allow questions by interested parties of persons testifying for the other side (from the questioner). Redundant and/or irrelevant questioning may be limited or terminated by the presiding officer. Hostile questioning which disrupts or interferes with the hearing procedures is prohibited and will be terminated by the presiding officer. Answers should be truthful and responsive to the question asked. Questions should be directed for the purpose of obtaining truthful information for the enlightenment of each side and the Commission, not for the purpose of argument. The Commission and/or its staff or attorney may ask questions of any person testifying at any time for purpose of clarifying or completing the record.

Addressing the Commission | When addressing the Commission, whether testifying or asking a question, each person doing so should come to the table and state their name and address for the record before they begin their presentation and should restate their name each time they return to the table to address the Commission. Each person testifying must speak clearly and directly into the microphone as these proceedings are being recorded.

Rules of evidence | Adherence to the rules of evidence of a trial shall not be required, and the Commission shall allow such latitude on the receipt of evidence as rules of fair play may require. However, the Commission may limit or prohibit the presentation of repetitive or irrelevant evidence and enforce proper decorum.

Burden of proof | The Applicant on any appeal or request for approval, certificate of appropriateness, permit or rezoning shall have the burden of proof in going forward with evidence and burden of persuasion on all questions of fact relevant to the application.

Adjournment | The Commission may adjourn a meeting if all business cannot be disposed of on the day set (including hearings not yet reached or completed), and no further public notice shall be necessary for such a meeting as long as the time and place of its resumption is stated at the time of adjournment and is not changed after adjournment.

Commission deliberations and decision | After hearing both sides, and after any questioning, the Commission will go into deliberations and make a decision on what action shall be taken by vote. No further testimony from either side is allowed during the Commission’s deliberations or vote, provided that the Commission may reopen testimony whenever it deems this to be necessary or advisable for either clarification or to complete the record. The Commission’s decision will be based on the record of evidence before it, as well as applicable law.

When there are less than 5 Commissioners present
If there is not a full Commission available to vote on a matter, and there is a split vote which fails to achieve a majority (three votes) either for or against an item, the item will automatically be deferred pursuant to Chapter 27 of the Resolution.

Ratification | The Commission may approve certain items together without a hearing in a vote of ratification where no opposition, question or concerns have been raised about the item, and the item appears clearly appropriate for approval. Where any opposition to such ratification of an item is expressed at the hearing, however, either by a third party or by any Commissioner, the Commission will remove the item from the list for ratification and shall hold a hearing on the item prior to any decision.

Continuance, withdrawal or deferral | Any party may request a continuance of a hearing in order to present additional information. The Commission shall consider any such requests in its sole discretion. Additional fees may apply, as provided for in the Resolution and/or the Commission’s schedule of fees. An applicant may withdraw an application at any time prior to the Commission’s final action on that application. The Commission may, in its discretion and on its own motion, defer a decision, or continue the hearing, on any application in accordance with the Resolution.

Audience | The audience must remain quiet during the hearing and respect the dignity of these proceedings. Speaking out from the audience or demonstrations intended to disrupt the hearing will not be tolerated. Comments from the audience will not be recorded and will not become part of the record. Notwithstanding the above, the presiding officer may recognize members of the audience at the presiding officer’s discretion when exigent circumstances require a party to object or raise a question on a procedural matter. All cell phones or other electronic devices in the hearing room must be turned off or silenced while the Commission hearing is in progress.

Record | In addition to testimony and documents presented at the hearing, the record of the Commission hearing will include documents and information timely filed with the Commission prior to the hearing, including staff reports and studies as well as information provided by the applicant, opponents and other interested parties. The record shall also include the Resolution and the Macon-Bibb County Comprehensive Development Plan, as approved by the Macon-Bibb County Commission. All such documents and information shall be available for review and copying to each side, as well as the general public.

Procedural Guidelines V-8 10-2-19

Anyone who has questions regarding these guidelines or any other aspect of the hearing process may contact the Zoning Office at [email protected] or call (478) 751-7460.