Category Archives: Trailers

City Building Permits For The School District

Many jurisdictions in Metro Atlanta seem to clearly know they are in charge of compliance with their local codes and vigorously perform that task. I’m not sure why others shirk that responsibility.

Georgia Department of Education (GA DOE) Guideline for Educational Facility Construction 160-5-4-.16(a) says, “Temporary educational facilities must meet all applicable state and local building codes and must have a separate certificate of occupancy for each building.”
Atlanta Public Schools has a document, “APS Design Guidelines v2.10 A Planning Guide for Construction and Renovation of School Facilities“, dealing with school construction. Appendix B is “City of Atlanta, Building Permitting Procedures and Guidelines for Educational Facilities.” This document discusses how to be compliant with the City’s local building codes.  Atlanta Public Schools states that “The Architect should allow at least 3 months from the time that the final drawings are submitted for review to the issuance of the permit. A preliminary review by a Plan Reviewer is a necessity to ensure that the process will run smoothly and that all code requirements have been addressed.”
DeKalb County
DeKalb County also issues permits to DeKalb schools for facilities in the unincorporated area.
Decatur certainly enforces local building codes.  In Decatur, the school system must go before the City Council to even place a trailer on school property. Earlier this month, the Decatur School District went to the their council to REQUEST PERMISSION to add trailers to one of their schools inside the city limits of Decatur. Before the City of Decatur would approve the trailers, they wanted to know:

  • Whether the proposed use is suitable in view of the use and development of adjacent and nearby property.
  • Whether the proposed use adversely affects the existing use or usability of adjacent or nearby property.
  • Whether the proposed use results in a use which will or could cause an excessive or burdensome use of existing streets, transportation facilities, utilities or other public facilities.
  • Whether there is adequate ingress and egress to the subject property, including evaluation of the traffic impact of the proposed use relative to street capacity and safety of public streets and nearby pedestrian uses.
  • Whether there are other existing or changing conditions which, because of their impact on the public health, safety, morality and general welfare of the community, give supporting grounds for either approval or disapproval of the proposed use.

Until just recently, Dunwoody hasn’t performed inspections or issued Certificates of Occupancy for DeKalb Schools in years. I asked DeKalb Schools Chief Operating Office Joshua Williams to help me understand how things are going to work in Dunwoody.

Joshua Williams
DeKalb Schools, Chief Operating Officer

“Under a new arrangement (via a Memorandum of Understanding), the City of Dunwoody will still be responsible for issuing land disturbance permits, building permits, and the certificates of occupancy.
The DeKalb County School District will hire a third-party professionally certified engineering and inspection firm to perform the building plan reviews and inspections which were previously conducted by the City of Dunwoody.”
–Joshua Williams

The City of Dunwoody has taken a hands-off approach when dealing with building permits and facilities code compliance with the school district. After it was exposed that school facilities were missing Certificates of Occupancy, the City and the School District started to discuss how to address this problem. Out of those discussions, the City approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Dunwoody and the DeKalb Board of Education. I believe the superintendent signed this MOU without notifying the board. I’m seeking clarity on that part.
Furthermore, I’m not sure why the City and school district need an MOU when other jurisdictions seem to clearly know they are in charge of compliance with their local codes and vigorously perform that task.

Another Cover Up in Dunwoody

As discussed in yesterday’s post, Enforcing Zoning, Building, and Other Ordinances, DeKalb Schools’ Chief Legal Officer says, “GDOE guidelines provide that temporary educational facilities must meet all applicable state and local building codes and must have a separate certificate of occupancy for each building.”
Unfortunately, hundreds of students across the county are currently sitting in non-inspected trailers. The City of Dunwoody can’t provide a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) for most of the portable classrooms currently in Dunwoody.
Cities need to enforce their ordinances/code, regarding building, plumbing, electrical, land disturbance, storm water, etc. for any building activity on property owned by the school district or county, within the city. The court explicitly stated, in City of Decatur vs. DeKalb County, that within a city, only the city is imbued with the powers to enforce such things.

Robert Miller began looking into the overcrowding issue a decade ago when his children were forced to learn in trailers. He was interviewed by CBS 46 in the news story “Portable classrooms in Dunwoody not inspected
“We don’t know how old the trailers are, we don’t know where they came from,” Miller said. “When you look at the city of Dunwoody code, they don’t even allow temporary trailers. You can only have temporary trailers connected to a building permit.”
With his permission, I’m reposting some thoughts Robert Miller recently shared on Facebook.

Rober Miller
Dunwoody Parent

Another cover up in Dunwoody! The School Administration quietly cut down specimen trees and quietly installed non-permitted trailers, while the City Staff quietly sat by and watched because they only permit, inspect and fine if they can collect money. Now they are both quietly having meetings to work out a cooperative deal!
Have you been warned, threatened or fined by the City? Did you get to have a beneficial meeting with the city and work out a deal?
If the City was committed to protecting the citizens then they would equally and fairly enforce city ordnances with all partners, businesses and other governments. Not just the ones that pay for permits and fines!
The Dekalb County School administration is not following the State requirement of getting a certificate of occupancy for trailers used as classrooms. And the City of Dunwoody staff is not enforcing the city’s temporary trailer and tree ordnances. Is the city staff lazy or do they only enforce life safety issues when they get paid?
The Mayor and city council’s job is to establish the code AND hold the staff accountable for enforcing the code.
I am sick of the incompetence!
School Administrators DO YOUR JOB!
City Staff DO YOUR JOB!

Related Posts

Enforcing Zoning, Building, and Other Ordinances
May 3, 2017 – What authority does a city or county have in enforcing its zoning, building, and other ordinances with respect to temporary and permanent building on school property? This question with respect to zoning and all other ordinances became settled law with the rulings for two court cases.


Open Letter to Mayor, Council Members, and City of Dunwoody staff – Enforcement of city ordinances/code
April 12, 2017 – I am writing to address a concern I have regarding recent correspondence about the city’s process for permitting and inspections for compliance with city ordinances; specifically as they relate to other governmental entities operating within the city’s boundaries.