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County wants retail site for parking deck
This retail center at 108 Pilgrim Mill Road likely will be razed to make way for a parking deck behind the Forsyth County Administration Building. The public will have a chance to speak Thursday night before the county commission decides whether to use eminent domain to condemn the strip mall. - photo by Jim Dean

If you go

The public hearing will begin tonight at 6:15 p.m. in the Commissioners Meeting Room in the Forsyth County Administration Building, 110 East Main St. in Cumming.

Forsyth County commissioners will open the floor to the public tonight before beginning the process of condemning a strip mall in Cumming.

Plans for a parking deck to be built behind the county administration building include using the .86-acre site of the retail center at 108 Pilgrim Mill Road.

The parking deck, which will include between 430 and 480 spaces, is one of two that will be built in conjunction with the new jail and courthouse facilities in downtown Cumming.

Forsyth has been unable to reach a purchase agreement with the property owner, ACH Development, said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

An independent appraiser evaluated the property, Jarrard said, and that figure “guides the county’s negotiation.”

Without an agreement to buy, the county plans to continue with condemnation.

The public hearing at 6:15 p.m. offers a unique chance to comment before the commission votes on whether to proceed with using the power of eminent domain for condemnation.

The public will have the opportunity to weigh in on the county’s plans to acquire the property.

“This is unusual because most of what we condemn is for road right of way and we get to use what’s kind of a quick-take method,” Jarrard said.

The general acquisition method being undertaken for the shopping mall site requires a longer process and different procedure, he said.

If the commission adopts a resolution to begin condemnation proceedings, the county is unlikely to acquire the property until at least late fall, Jarrard said.

Though the property is in the city limits, Forsyth County is spearheading property acquisition for the large deck as part of an intergovernmental agreement with Cumming related to voter-approved 1-cent sales tax projects.

The second deck will be built on city-owned property along Castleberry Road near West Maple Street.

The agreement, approved in April, redirects $5.3 million the city would receive from the current 1-cent sales tax program to the county to build the decks needed for the new courthouse and jail projects.

In return, the county will give $4 million to the city for park improvements.

Also, the agreement states that any extra money collected from the city's portion of the sales tax revenue would go to Forsyth, but only if the county reciprocated an equal amount, an estimated $300,000.