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Commission approves Automation Direct expansion in north Forsyth

NORTH FORSYTH -- Forsyth County commissioners gave the go ahead for the expansion of a major Forsyth County company.

At a recent meeting, Forsyth County commissioners voted 4-0, with District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent absent, to rezone for Automation Direct Inc., 20 acres just west of Ga. 400 between Settingdown and Hopewell roads from single family residential Res-3 and Res-4 districts to a restricted industrial district, or M1.

The property will be used for a 280,000-square-foot warehouse and additional office space totaling just more than 6,500 square feet with 93 parking spaces and an open storage yard.

The development was previously recommended for approval by the county’s planning board, though county planning staff recommended denial due to the intensity of the zoning in the largely residential area.

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who represents the area, said the business will have a lighter impact on the community than housing would.

“This was zoned Res-3 and Res-4. There’s 190-something homes, not just on this tract but the entire tract,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be losing those homes and gaining the business there, as is the school system. I’ve got high hopes for what Automation Direct is going to bring in the future for north Forsyth schools, not putting any pressure on them.”

No public hearing was held at the meeting, though at a planning board work session on Aug. 23 Tim Hohmann, founder of Automation Direct, said the impact on traffic will be minimal.

“We estimate that for the first couple years, the average truck traffic will be four trucks per day,” he said. “We’re a very efficient operation, so we do not have tons of truck traffic, and we do not have trucks that sit at our place and idle — very rarely does that happen. We have an air conditioned warehouse so truck drivers can come in for refreshments.”

Hohmann also added the trucks will not enter and leave early in the morning or late at night when neighbors are sleeping.

James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said at a recent planning board meeting that the business has experienced tremendous growth.

“Automation Direct is just shy of Northside Hospital-[Forsyth] in terms of growth in this community,” he said. “They continue to be one of the fastest-growing [businesses] in the state and certainly in Forsyth County. They’ve been a great corporate citizen, and through my 12 years here, with the number of times they have expanded and grown, they have never once asked this community for assistance, for any sort of financial consideration.”