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Changes OKd for large mixed-use community
Deerfield Township planned off Strickland Road
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Forsyth County News

A master planned district approved in 2006 for southwest Forsyth County may soon be developed.

Commissioners approved zoning condition amendments for the 164-acre planned residential and commercial community known as Deerfield Township.

The changes, which passed 4-1 with Commissioner Todd Levent opposed, allow a revised site plan with “additional residential units and other commercial uses,” according to the application.

The site on Strickland Road, near where it meets McGinnis Ferry Road and Bethany Bend, was originally proposed as “Union Hill Township.”

The master plan states the mixed-use community will include multi- and single-family residential units, commercial buildings and green space, which will encompass at least 20 percent of the development.

The township will be “an extension” of the 800-acre development in Milton along Deerfield Parkway, said attorney Emory Lipscomb, who represents the developers.

Lipscomb said the original plan couldn’t be realized after the 2006 rezoning due to the economic downturn.

The developers, Seven Oaks Company and Orkin and Associates, received an amendment in 2008 for a continuing care retirement community to be added to the plan, Lipscomb said.

Developers began work to revive and re-envision the project in 2011, and applied for a site plan change in May.

“What you have before you is an improved version of what was originally proposed in 2006,” Lipscomb said.

The new plan has four single-family home residential districts, which are expected to sell from about $250,000 to the mid-$500,000 range, said Bob Voyles, a partner in the development.

The main street district will include retail, with residential units stacked on floors above, as well as an apartment community.

The high-rent apartments will have one or two bedrooms and at least 20 percent of them will be for seniors, Lipscomb said.

The commercial area will include offices, a continuing care retirement community and additional retail along the site’s border with Bethany Bend.

Overall, the project has been “downsized” by about 40 percent from the intensity of the original proposal, Lipscomb said.

He presented figures about the economic impact of the community, which is expected to generate a net of $19.4 million for the county’s tax base in the first 10 years after completion.

Commissioners largely welcomed the project, and two residents spoke in support of the plan during the public hearing.

Commissioner Jim Boff said he was “completely blown away by the review of the property you took me to.”

“I have every reason to believe that it’s safe to have high hopes in your organization,” Boff said.

While Deerfield Township drew rave reviews, a couple of other requested changes to years-old rezonings were met Thursday with public opposition.

Commissioners ultimately postponed a decision on whether to allow 14905 Hopewell Group to develop 61 more residential units instead of the 282,000 square feet of commercial and 300 parking spaces, as originally planned.

The 17.5 undeveloped acres on the Bennett Parkway property would be built out with homes compatible with the existing subdivision and a density of about 3.9 units per acre, said Lipscomb, who also represented the developer for that project.

Residents living in the existing homes said the subdivision streets are too narrow and the houses too close together to build what’s been proposed.

They referenced two fires, one of which spread quickly to four homes.

Neighbors also cited frequent traffic back-ups as cars attempt to leave the subdivision from its lone entrance.

Lipscomb said the residential use would cause less traffic than the commercial proposal.

Levent, who represents the district in which the development falls, requested a postponement to Aug. 15 to review the information and consider possible conditions that could mitigate the impact. The commission agreed in a 5-0 vote.

A county-initiated rezoning also drew some scrutiny from residents on Thursday during a public hearing.

The commission previously agreed to be the applicant for the application to rezone 1.75 acres on Nichols Road from agricultural to Res-3, which effectively waived the fee for consideration and expedites the process.

A discrepancy among plans led the developer to believe the parcel had previously been rezoned along with the rest of the future subdivision, but a recent review of county records showed it had not, said Lipscomb, again representing the developer.

A resident in neighboring Summerwind said her homeowners association should have been notified about the rezoning application.

Others agreed that the developer should go through the usual process.

The commisson voted 4-1, with Boff opposed, to approve the rezoning.