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Board updated on 'user friendly' efforts
Rezoning process next for makeover
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Forsyth County News

Also during its work session Tuesday night, Forsyth County’s planning board deadlocked 2-2 to name Pam Livesay as chairman for 2013.

Livesay’s fourth four-year term on the panel ended with 2012, however, and she said she will not be reappointed.

Per the county’s unified development code, a commissioner has 90 days after the term expires to name an appointee. Commissioner Brian Tam will select the representative for his District 2.

Planning board member Joe Moses nominated Livesay to serve as chairman until her term ends “to honor her service” to the board, which began in 1997.

The vote split, with Moses and Craig Nolen in favor and Livesay and Pam Bowman opposed.

Member Alan Neal was late to the meeting, but by rule the tie vote had to be postponed to the next work session.

The board also selected Nolen to serve as the 2013 secretary in a 4-0 vote.

Forsyth County’s “user friendly initiative” has spurred several changes to the unified development code and permitting with the aim of simplifying the process for businesses, developers and residents.

During a work session Tuesday night, the county planning board heard an update on talks that began in 2011 over how to streamline the process and reboot development.

Ideas to improve the county’s planning process originated in meetings of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, county staff, attorneys, developers, engineers and others in the community with input, said John Kieffer, who chaired the chamber’s board in 2011.

Some of the changes that have been adopted so far include allowing third party inspections, submitting of plans electronically and a less intensive process in applying for home occupation permit, Kieffer said.

“We respectfully request that you continue to provide the support and direction needed to continue making improvements to the process,” he told the planning board, which can recommend changes to the county commission.

Residential developer Howard Carson said he appreciated the county’s work in reviewing its processes and considering the suggestions of the group.

“[Planning director] Tom [Brown] and his staff have just done a remarkable job of moving things through their system quickly but cautiously and with thought,” Carson said.

He gave examples of changes that cleared up gray areas for developers, saved businesses money and reduced planning staff time.

Carson also asked the board to pay special attention to reducing zoning conditions that are redundant.

He also suggested considering additional residential zoning classifications to fill “gaping holes” left in the categories after the minimum lot sizes were changed in 2007.

The planning board also reviewed on Tuesday the latest proposed “user friendly” change designed to streamline the rezoning process, for which the first public hearing will be held Feb. 26.

The changes would “collapse” the application process from two parts, a preliminary review and a board submittal, to one all-purpose application, said Vanessa Bernstein, senior long-range planner.

The proposal also reduces the reporting requirements for public participation meetings and lowers the number of days to post a sign from 21 to 15.

In addition, it allows more discretion for how major changes to an application will affect its timeline.