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Limits on rezonings discussed

Congestion talk also turns to traffic, fees

POSTED: October 12, 2013 12:25 a.m.
 

Waiting in long lines of cars while watching homes go up has caused groups of Forsyth County residents to call for relief in traffic and residential development.

On Tuesday, the county commission took up several topics on related issues, including a heated discussion on possibly limiting residential rezoning applications at each meeting.

Commissioner Jim Boff on Tuesday proposed limiting all rezoning applications to allow one to be heard each month per district.

He said the ceiling could stagger the uneven distribution of zonings, though he agreed in later discussion that commercial rezonings should remain unlimited.

Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills weighed in quickly with a chart of rezonings approved each month, a total of 16 so far this year.

“This is not evidence that we need to come up with this whole new policy,” Mills said. “People are confused because things that were zoned back in the mid-2000s are just now being built.”

The chart shows that Mills’ District 4 in north Forsyth has had no rezonings this year, while the south Forsyth District 2 has had eight.

The commission currently has no limit on the number of rezoning applications that can be heard, after removing a cap of seven residential applications per month earlier this year, said county planning director Tom Brown.

The cap had been placed during the mid-2000s, the height of growth in the county.

District 2 Commissioner Brian Tam noted that approval of a rezoning application doesn’t give any indication of when development may actually start.

Commissioner Todd Levent, who represents the southwest District 3, said he favored a plan to provide a better balance for growth in the county, citing traffic back-ups and modular classrooms outside schools primarily in his district and Tam’s.

Mills said the developers want to build in the districts with the newest high schools, and no policy is going to drive homes into a more even distribution.

She added that a discussion on improving traffic is needed “but it doesn’t go with limiting zoning.”

After closing the talk on rezoning with no votes taken, the commission next broached the subject of road congestion, looking for ways to advance funding for projects in the current 1-cent sales tax program.

Commissioners expressed interest in a plan to use reserve funding to fast-track projects for Mullinax and Old Atlanta roads.

They will review the numbers for cost and available funding in two weeks, after staff compiles a report.

Commissioners also directed the staff to review the county’s impact fees for residential construction.

They generally appeared in favor of moving from the current system of charging per square foot to a per unit charge, but requested a report on that subject as well as how the fee correlates to the need for services.

The fees, which are charged to developers to offset the impact, contribute to the county’s parks, libraries, fire and 911 services.

Levent showed interest in charging an impact fee for transportation, another category allowed under the state law.

When the program was instituted 10 years ago, County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the community debated whether to charge the transportation fee, which would eliminate the commission’s ability to solicit right of way for road projects during rezoning applications.

That discussion continued Tuesday, but the commmission opted to focus on improving the existing categories before exploring new ones, which would require substantially more work to implement.

Throughout the work session, commissioners ultimately discussed three of six concerns raised in a joint letter from five local advocacy organizations.

The letter, dated Wednesday, lists Fix Forsyth Traffic, Forsyth Citizens for Responsible Growth, Forsyth HOA & Homeowners, Post Road Committee for Proper Development and Smart Growth Forsyth County as the contributors.

Though the letter didn’t precede the meeting, a representative said many of the issues have been raised in individual discussions or emails with commissioners.

The first request suggested a moratorium on high density residential development, excluding senior living, for the Res-4 and Res-6 categories and a limit on Res-3 applications of one per month.

The letter also called for stricter requirements for variances and changes to the impact fee program, both of which the commission discussed.

 

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