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City could form in south Forsyth

Alliance studying Sharon Springs idea

POSTED: January 17, 2014 12:28 a.m.
 

A group of south Forsyth residents plans to study the possibility of creating a second city in the county.

The Sharon Springs Alliance recently formed amid concerns about local representation and community identity.

Group co-founder Phillip Barlag said cityhood is one option to improve accountability and control within rapidly growing south Forsyth.

“As much as we are a small group that has organized this effort, the citizens of south Forsyth County have become increasingly aware of the challenges that face them,” Barlag said. “This is but one way of that being expressed.”

The concept began to form as residents came together to discuss zoning matters before county government, said Barlag, who is one of seven founding members.

Residents expressed concern with the rate of development, the number of approvals in zoning matters that don’t adhere to county plans and the district representation of commissioners giving them just one vote out of five, he said.

Creation of a city would give residents “a more direct say in decisions that affect our quality of life,” Barlag said.

The community would also have a name to go with the geographical character area.

“We’re not in Cumming. We’re not in Suwanee,” he said. “The sense of identity is very important.”

Information on the group’s Web site states that Sharon Springs is a working title showing affiliation to the area of focus, referencing Sharon Road, Sharon Elementary School and Sharon Springs Park.

The proposed boundary — all within Forsyth County — is east of Ga. 400 and south of Buford Highway (Hwy. 20), as well as a small portion to the northeast of the highway not touching Lake Lanier.

The borders don’t encroach on the city of Cumming, Forsyth’s lone municipality and the county seat.

While the process to become a city can be lengthy — and one that’s still being explored — Barlag said one of the first questions asked is how the taxation would work. The hope is that the impact would be minimal by simply “shifting what’s already out there locally.”

Many services would still be provided through the county and those taxes, but ideally the sales taxes generated within south Forsyth could stay in the area, Barlag said.

However, the tax impact is “undetermined,” according to Barlag, and one of the concepts that would be explored in a city feasibility study.

The study is the first step in analyzing the creation of a city, and the alliance is seeking private donations to fund the official, state-required review from the Carl Vinson Institute of the University of Georgia.

Depending on the results, the area would need unanimous support from the county’s seven-member state legislative delegation to hold a public referendum on cityhood.

Barlag has experienced the process before since he lived in Johns Creek during its movement to become a city in 2006.

He moved into an existing home in south Forsyth about two years ago, and said he’s seen some of the same problems that Johns Creek once faced.

“Incorporating a new city is a big decision, one not to be taken lightly,” he said. “We seek to protect our great schools and neighborhoods by utilizing a smart growth plan with local representation.

“It is our hope that with the formation of the Sharon Springs Alliance, we can determine the best way for our community to improve its identity and protect the high quality of life we enjoy.”

 

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