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Buford Highway up for overlay district
Proposal aims to enhance corridor
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth County commissioners will consider the addition of an overlay district along Buford Highway on Thursday.

The proposal would set aesthetic requirements for new development on the Hwy. 20 corridor from the Cumming city limits to the Forsyth-Gwinnett County line.

The commission will hold a public hearing and potentially vote on the addition to the unified development code at the meeting, which begins at 5 p.m.

The planning board recommended approving the proposal following a first public hearing in November. Those who spoke at the session generally seemed in favor, but offered some suggestions.

The concept originated with Commissioner Jim Boff, and the overlay proposal spans the Buford Highway segment within his District 5.

According the proposed unified development code change, “The enhancement of this well-traveled corridor through a unification of its visual context by way of appropriate design measures offers benefits such as the protection of land values through improved appearance and utility that may foster business attraction.”

Senior planner Vanessa Bernstein-Goldman presented a draft for the plan in May, stating the requirements for the district are “more limited” in scope than other overlays in the county, such as Peachtree Parkway.

“It’s specifically focused on landscaping, parking requirements for nonresidential uses and signage requirements,” she said.

“There are also specific performance standards for fuel stations as well as vehicle-related establishments.”

Some of the regulations “would seek to mitigate some development impacts that we currently see on the road,” she added.

The proposal limits parking for commercial establishments to no more than 60 percent of spaces located in front of the main entrance, with a maximum of 300 spaces.

Landscaping requirements include a 20-foot wide planted strip along the highway.

A sign regulation would also prohibit electronic, changeable copy except for at gas stations, which often display the price of fuel on a digital sign.

The overlay includes properties within 250 feet on either side of the road’s centerline.

Boff said he believed this was the best time to discuss the overlay, before construction to widen the road to four lanes begins later in 2014.

The commission will also consider changes to the county unified development code on Thursday that would specify requirements for those who prepare site plans.

That modification would require a licensed professional to prepare site plans for zoning applications on properties larger than 20 acres.

The planning board also supported this code change, but with a threshold of 10 acres to require a licensed land surveyor, professional engineer, landscape architect and architect.