Court of Appeals agrees with Judge’s determination that issuance of a buffer variance for lake was improper, reverses two Superior Court rulings.

Topic: Environmental Law, Decided by Judge Miller 
Docket Number: 1308374 , Decision Date: 2013-01-14 
Attachment: Click here to download the decision. 

The Judge ruled in favor of several groups (“River Groups”) challenging a variance granted by the Director of the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The variance allowed Grady County to encroach upon the 25-foot vegetative buffer around state waters required by the Erosion and Sedimentation Act. The Director reasoned that wetlands do not require the buffer because they do not have “wrested vegetation.” The Director and Grady County filed separate actions in the Superior Court of Fulton County and the Superior Court of Grady County, respectively. Both Superior Courts reversed the Judge’s decision, one court ruling the River Groups did not have standing to challenge the action, and both ruling the variance was appropriate. The Court of Appeals of Georgia consolidated and reversed both Superior Court decisions, finding that (1) the River Groups had standing to challenge the variance based on the standing of their members, and (2) that issuance of the variance was improper because “state waters” included waters that did not have wrested vegetation.