Future Development & UDC

Many have expressed concerns about the rapid growth occurring in the County, and what the long term plans and changes entail. There has also been a lot said regarding the County's Unified Development Code initiative. In addition to these topics, there have been several public statements made regarding development needs and the community seeks answers. I have attempted to answer questions that have been posed.


What is the UDC?

See more here: https://www.cobbcounty.org/community-development/news/unified-development-code-what-it-and-why-does-cobb-need-it

Cobb County Code Update

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a unified development code (UDC)?

A unified development code is a single regulatory document that guides development within a jurisdiction. This may include zoning and subdivision regulations, infrastructure requirements, design guidelines, landscaping standards, sign regulations, etc.

Why does Cobb County need a unified development code?

Cobb County currently has two primary documents that regulate development: the County Code of Ordinance and the Cobb County Development Standards. In addition to these regulatory documents, the County has also adopted design guidelines to offer additional standards for design, architecture, landscape, etc. in targeted areas of the County. In their entirety, these documents consist of several hundred pages, which are often overlapping and sometimes inconsistent. A unified development code would streamline these documents into one combined document that would be more easily accessible to the public, designers, and County staff reviewers.

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.

What is the timeline for the project and how can I be involved?

Once a consultant is selected and approved by the Board of Commissioners, the project will begin in earnest and is expected to take approximately 18-24 months to complete. The selected consultant will be charged with planning and executing a community engagement process that will provide numerous opportunities for residents, homeowners, and civic associations, and businesses and business organizations to be informed and to provide feedback into the process, as well as to review and comment on draft work products throughout this initiative. In addition to town hall meetings, public hearings, and focus groups, there will be opportunities for online engagement, as well as a project website, with the goal being to provide ample opportunities for all of Cobb County’s stakeholders to be involved and provide meaningful input.

The Comprehensive Plan Update will eventually come before the Board of Commissioners for approval, following the required public hearings, with the final adoption of the five-year Comprehensive Plan Update scheduled for Fall 2022.

Are we really looking into affordable housing - why and/or why not?

Nationwide, statewide, and within the Metro-Atlanta area, we face a housing shortage which drives prices up and increases the costs of all related industries. That being said, affordable housing is an important issue that requires some solutions, and something to keep in mind is that the phrase means something different to each community. If anyone is serious about tackling such a complex issue, one must be sensitive to the many different meanings. Please see some examples.

  1. It can mean housing supply issues (inflates costs and is usually fueled by increased costs)

  2. It can mean the supply available is not up to standard (reduces the stock available and can cause other issues impacting health and food security)

  3. It can indicate an inability to downsize (reduces the ability for a community to be sustainable, especially for its senior members)

  4. It can mean there housing supply is systemically too expensive for an entire demographic (age, race, nationality) due to unresolved documentary, discriminatory, legal, or generational issues (drastic issues are apparent in economically disadvantaged communities, job insecure, veterans, youth, and historically discriminated groups)

As representatives, we are actively seeking economically feasible methods and partnerships to resolve some of the aforementioned issues. Please see the Affordable Housing Page to see Commissioner Richardson's goals and vision in this topic.

Is affordable housing going into every neighborhood?

Not every community faces an affordable housing issue, however, real solutions are meant to tailor to the unique qualities of a community, and do not seek to disrupt those qualities. The short answer is "no". The longer answer includes a much more nuanced evaluation of what affordable housing means and accepts that there are many misconceptions of what constitutes affordable housing.

As representatives, we are actively seeking economically feasible methods and partnerships to resolve some of the aforementioned issues. Please see the Affordable Housing Page to see Commissioner Richardson's goals and vision in this topic.

Why does the government try to fix things that the free market should fix--like housing?

The Commissioner's perspective provides that Government can serve as "convening and collaborative" platform for those with common interests. It can serve as a transparent balance and risk collection for a group of individuals in order to increase the chance of a specific goal's success. Examples would include: Road Maintenance, Policing and community public safety, and research and industry stimulation. All of the aforementioned when taken on by one individual or one corporation creates a more vulnerable platform for corruption and scarcity scenarios. Even when such individuals and corporations collaborate, there are no requirements for public transparency. Given that, the Government will occasionally select to impact the community's more complex issues in partnership with individuals and corporations. It is in this spirit, that some Government officials will seek to solve issues like housing- where the free market may otherwise encourage more siloed efforts.

What are the planning desires for the East Cobb Area- especially the activity centers?

There are currently no plans for East Cobb's activity centers. There are a few façade enhancements being requested for the East Cobb avenues. There are some mobility (safety, intersection issues, traffic issues) efforts currently in discussion.

Planning & Zoning Dashboard

Offer Your Thoughts on Upcoming Cases

Planning & Zoning (For Property Owners)

Planning & Zoning responsibilities as what halls under the County jurisdiction may seem somewhat complex, but in reality it is a pretty straightforward process. As a commitment to efficient government, we promise applicants (property owners, developers, etc) a 60 day turnaround on decisions given that there are no community negotiations necessary. This is standard of service set to be professional and to encourage a very streamlined process. So, everything begins with a property owner looking to do something.

  1. Property owner submits an application to change a zoning. Applications can be found here and property owners have the legal right to develop property they own.

  2. We encourage applicants to meet with staff to understand the nuances of their application.

Commissioner's Suggested Process

  1. Decide Your Project Type

  2. Pick a Community (See Communities Below)

  3. Refer to Zoning and Land Use Plans

  4. Schedule Time with Commissioner Richardson

  5. Contact Civic Organization/Local Authority (See Organizations Below)

  6. Submit Application and Speak with John Pederson

  7. Check out Development Resources/Incentives

East Cobb Area

Low Density Residential, Light Commercial

Lower Roswell, Johnson Ferry, Roswell Rd, Terrell Mill, Woodlawn, Paper Mill, Sewell Mill, Holt Rd.

Contact: East Cobb Civic Association

Oakdale Area

Low, Medium and High Residential, Medium Commercial, Historical

Oakdale Rd, Atlanta Rd, S. Cobb Dr., Highlands Ridge, Cooper Lake

Contact: Oakdale Alliance

Vinings Area

Historical, Low and Medium Residential, Light and Medium Commercial

Woodlawn Brook Dr. , Paces Ferry

Contact: Vinings Homeowner's Association

Powers Ferry Corridor/Little Brazil

High and Medium Density Residential, Medium Density Commercial

Powers Ferry, Delk Rd, Windy Hill Rd

Contact: Powers Ferry Corridor Alliance

Cumberland CID

High density commercial and residential

Cobb Pkwy, Spring Rd., I-285, Cumberland Blvd, Circle 75 Pkwy

Contact: Cumberland CID

Johnson Ferry/Shallowford Area

Low Density Residential

Childers Rd, Shallowford, Johnson Ferry, Mabry Rd., Post Oak Tritt

Contact: East Cobb Civic Association

Contact: JOSH Area Group


Municipal government, High density Residential, Medium Density Commercial

Cumberland Pkwy, King Springs, Concord Rd., Atlanta Rd, Windy Hill

Contact: Smyrna City Council

Cochise Area

Low Density Residential, Riverlands

Paces Mill, Cochise Dr., Paces Ferry Rd.

Contact: Vinings Homeowner's Association

Indian Hills

Low Density Residential, Historic

Indian Hills Pkwy, Lower Roswell

Contact: East Cobb Civic Association

Commissioner's Future Plans

Comprehensive Plan

A Comprehensive Plan is a long-range plan intended to direct the growth and physical development of a community for a 20+ year period. Preparing a comprehensive plan allows for utility, transportation, and community facilities planning, aiding in a more time and cost-effective planning and budgeting program. The plan includes policies relevant to the development of various physical elements that make a community successful, including transportation, housing, recreation, and public facilities.

A Comprehensive Plan also provides for the distribution and relationships of various land uses; this land-use element serves as a basis for future physical development recommendations. These recommendations are supported by a set of goals and objectives drawn from existing conditions and the desires and aspirations of the citizens.

"The plan should be comprehensive in scope, general in nature, and long-range in perspective."

-T.J. Kent Jr.

Master Planning Initiative

We aim to create master plans for all of the communities within District 2. To accomplish this, we have tapped the assistance of residents in each of the respective communities to help us reach more people to make sure our plans reflect the goals of our communities. They are known as ambassadors. Click below to learn more about the initiative!

Unified Development Code

A unified development code is a single regulatory document that guides development within a jurisdiction. This may include zoning and subdivision regulations, infrastructure requirements, design guidelines, landscaping standards, sign regulations, etc.