The Brookhaven City Council approved a 35-day citywide moratorium on all zoning cases, land disturbance permits and building permits at its Jan. 23 meeting. City officials would only say it was doing so due to a “technicality” in the zoning code to be fixed by next month.
City Attorney Chris Balch told the council a moratorium was needed “to fix a technicality.” There was no further discussion by the council.
In an interview, Balch declined to explain further the reason for the moratorium.
“I can’t go further without breaching attorney-client privilege,” he said. “I can say it is related to litigation.”
In a press release, Councilmember Bates Mattison said the city recently became aware of a gap in the city’s code that occurred five years ago at the time of incorporation “which could adversely affect current Brookhaven property owners.
“We have to have a temporary moratorium to make a technical fix to protect existing residents and businesses,” he said.
In an interview, he said it was his understanding the moratorium did not affect any zoning cases or permits that were filed before Jan. 23. He also said he would like to look at options on how to compensate developer expenses caused by the moratorium.
At Mayor John Ernst’s Jan. 24 town hall meeting, a woman who recently purchased property in the city asked why there was a moratorium because she is planning to build on her land.
Ernst was vague and said that while going over current litigation the city “found a flaw in our zoning code … that would open the floodgates for lots of different things.”
The “flaw” was found within the past three weeks, he said, and it was important enough to call for a moratorium “to protect neighborhoods.”
City Manager Christian Sigman at the town hall said resources will be made available to quickly process any backlog of zoning cases and permits at the end of the four weeks.
City spokesperson Burke Brennan said in a Jan. 25 statement that “a technical flaw in Brookhaven’s zoning code recently came to light during pending litigation.”
“The city attorney’s office is assessing options and the city’s potential exposure. It is anticipated a solution will be developed well in advance of the next Planning Commission meeting,” Brennan said.
The moratorium ordinance will have to be considered by the Planning Commission next month and is slated to be lifted at the Feb. 27 City Council meeting.