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5 stories to look for in 2020
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Construction crews work on Poole's Mill Elementary School, which is slated to open in August of 2020. (Photo courtesy Forsyth County Schools)

The new year brings new chances, challenges and opportunities, and, in Forsyth County, a lot to look forward to.

From road projects to elections to park projects, there’s plenty going on in the county, and the FCN staff has put together a list of what we think will likely be some of the biggest stories coming in 2020.

Roadwork to be done

Roadwork is seemingly a constant in Forsyth County, but some projects planned for 2020 should provide some help.

Likely the most impactful project is a partial-cloverleaf interchange at Hwy. 369 on Ga. 400, which will replace the existing intersection, along with a widening project on 369 from just west of Dahlonega Highway (Hwy. 9 north) to just east of Keith Bridge Road (Hwy. 306), a distance of about 2 miles. The work will include four 12-foot-wide lanes, a 30-foot-long raised median, an eight-foot-wide sidewalk along the south side of the road and a five-foot-wide sidewalk on the northern side.

According to information from Forsyth County, the widening and interchange projects and an intersection improvement at Hwy. 9 and 369 are all expected to start by the spring.

In south Forsyth, two plans set to begin in spring/early summer will widen more than two miles of Old Atlanta Road. Phase IV of the project will widen the roadway to two lanes in each direction with a raised median, shoulders, curb and gutter and five-foot sidewalks from James Burgess Road Sharon Trail, and Phase V will continue the project from Sharon to St. Marlo Country Club Parkway.

Also in south Forsyth, a project to connect the two existing portions of Ronald Reagan Boulevard from McFarland Parkway to Majors Road, which will include two lanes in each direction, a 20-foot-wide raised median, curb and gutter, a five-foot sidewalk and 10-foot multi-use path, is set to begin next year.

Officials said the project should be awarded by March.

By December 2020, the Georgia Department of Transportation is expected to bid out a project for a new “full diamond” Ga. 400 interchange at McGinnis Ferry Road.

The coming year also means the planned completion of the ongoing widening project on Pilgrim Mill Road, which will widen the road from Aquatic Circle to Holtzclaw Road. The project started in June 2018 and is expected to be done by July 29, 2020.

- Kelly Whitmire

Lots of zoning decisions to be made
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Aerial view of the Polo Fields. (Google Maps)

It looks like Forsyth County Commissioners will have plenty of decisions to make about land use in 2020, particularly for mixed-use projects, or projects that have both residential and commercial elements.

According to documents from the Forsyth County Department of Planning and Community Development, Lennar Georgia Inc., of Roswell, has submitted an application to rezone 39.24 acres between Polo Drive and Majors Road from single-family residential restricted district (R2R) to master-planned district (MPD) for 131 residential lots and 24,500 square feet of commercial buildings with 288 parking spaces.

The applicant has a work period lasting until Feb. 4 and would then go to the county’s planning commission and board of commissioners.

Also in south Forsyth, officials with McDonald Development Company have submitted a plan to rezone about 119 acres at 2765 Atlanta Highway (Hwy. 9) near the intersection with Majors Road to MPD.

Plans for the development include 88 age-restricted condominiums, over 1,200 parking spaces, two retail outparcels and six industrial buildings totaling 907,550 square feet to create a "Forsyth Technology Park." About 25% of the land will be open space, and the backside of the property will abut Ga. 400.

McDonald will have an applicant work period through June 2020 before going to public hearings.

At 100 McFarland Parkway, a development known as The Villages at Brandywine is being planned on 18.5 acres just east of the intersection with Atlanta Highway and abutting Brandywine Elementary School. The development is planned for 79 attached residential lots for townhomes and 50,000 square feet of commercial buildings with 261 parking spaces.

The applicant work period ended in September, and the next step is an application for board consideration.

The Fuqua development, called “Brookwood Quarters,” which is proposed on about 70 acres at the corner of Peachtree Parkway (Hwy. 141) and Brookwood Road, could also see a decision made in 2020 after an applicant work period ending in February.

The development would total 75 townhouses, 250 apartments and 415,000 square feet of commercial buildings with about 1,800 parking spaces. 

-Kelly Whitmire

Election 2020

It should come as no surprise that 2020 is expected to be a contentious election year, but some locals might not be aware of how many races are on the ballot.

While most of the country’s focus is likely to be on the presidential election, 2020 will have local races at the federal, state and local levels.

Forsyth County, along with neighboring Gwinnett, is expected to draw national attention for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, which both parties have targeted following Rep. Rob Woodall’s announcement that he would not be running for the seat he has held since 2011.

Woodall’s decision has brought out a number of candidates for both parties, with Democrats wanting to continue strides made in the suburbs and Republicans wanting to hold onto the seat.

Voters will have two other opportunities to vote on who Georgia sends to Washington, D.C. via two Senate races. The race for the seat held by Sen. David Perdue is up for its standard six-year term, though voters will also have a chance to vote on who will serve the unexpired term of Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down for health issues and whose term will be filled by Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp, until the election.

As is the case every other year, all of Forsyth County’s elected officials to the Georgia General Assembly – state Senate Districts 27 and 51 and state House Districts 22, 35, 25 and 26 – will be up for election.

At the county level, Board of Commissioner Districts 2, 4 and 5 – held by Dennis Brown, Cindy Mills and Chairwoman Laura Semanson, respectively – and Board of Education Districts 3, 4 and 5 – held by Tom Cleveland, Darla Light and Nancy Roche – will be on the ballot, along with races for sheriff, tax commissioner, coroner and more.

-Kelly Whitmire

Forsyth County Schools opens Poole’s Mill Elementary                                             

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Construction crews work on Poole's Mill Elementary School, which is slated to open in August of 2020. (Photo courtesy Forsyth County Schools)

In 2020, the Forsyth County school system will open its 22nd elementary school, Poole’s Mill Elementary, which will serve a large portion of north Forsyth on the county’s western edge.

According to school system officials, the new elementary school is on track to open in August 2020 for the new school year, headed by Paige Andrews, former principal of Silver City Elementary. 

Named after the Poole’s Mill area, the new school will honor Dr. M.L. Poole, who owned a mill and cotton gin operation in the area during the late 19th century. School system officials say the new school will be crafted with a wood and stone aesthetic, reflecting the character of Poole’s Mill Bridge and historic mill.

Land for Poole’s Mill and East Forsyth High School was purchased by the system in the early 2000s but both projects were tabled due to the severity of the economic recession that the country experienced after the crash of 2008.

Redistricting for Poole’s Mill Elementary, which was approved by the Forsyth County Board of Education in November, involved six different “moves” which rearranged the attendance lines for five north Forsyth elementary schools, placing about 800 students at Poole’s Mill from other existing schools, and exchanging swaths of land so that other surrounding schools fell below 100% capacity.

A grand opening ceremony for the new school will be held in August 2020, school officials say. 

-Alex Popp

Updates and improvements come to Forsyth County parks 
Matt Park

There are several projects for Forsyth County parks planned in 2020, officials say, adding new features, facilities and amenities to local parks.

At Matt Community Park in north Forsyth, six lighted tennis courts, a pavilion and restroom facilities will be constructed to the park’s existing playground by summer 2020, Forsyth County officials announced in December. This project is being funded through SPLOST VII.

Some parking near the Matt Park project will be closed during construction, but other park amenities will remain open.

Major improvement projects for phase one of the Big Creek Greenway are currently in the design and permitting process, county officials say, and construction is expected to begin in 2020. This project will be funded by SPLOST VIII.

At Caney Creek Preserve, improvements to trails, the park’s dog park area and landscaping will begin in late 2020 with completion anticipated by 2021. This project will be funded by SPLOST VII.

County officials also say that a number of different public meetings and town halls will be held in 2020 for proposed projects at Bennett Park, Central Park, Denmark Park, Matt Community Park and Sharon Springs Park.

-Alex Popp