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District 2 in Forsyth County will get its own planning board
Tam Brian

SOUTH FORSYTH — After a great deal of back and forth, much of populous south Forsyth will indeed be getting its own separate planning board.

“It [will] be a five-member planning commission comprised of four members that would be selected and approved by the board of commissioners that would reside in District 2,” explained County Attorney Ken Jarrard before a vote on the matter.

“They [will] be in powers to make alternative recommendations to the board of commissioners that would go along with the regular recommendations of the planning [board].”

The fifth member will be District 2 Commissioner Brian Tam, who will serve as a chair and cannot vote except to break a tie. The other members have not been approved.

The county commission approved the new panel in a 4-1 vote Thursday night, with Commissioner Todd Levent opposed.

The subarea board will be re-evaluated at the end of 2016, at which point the commission will decide whether it should continue.

According to Tam, “We can sit back here in a year from now and say, ‘You know what, this was a good idea’ or ‘This was an OK idea, let’s make some changes along the way,’ or ‘You know what, that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard, let’s get rid of it.’”

The new board has been contentious topic this summer and fall. In a 4-1 vote, the planning board recommended it be denied. Only District 2 planning representative Jane Iglesias, who will not be on the new panel, was in favor of it.

Currently the planning board is the only recommending board to the commission, which then makes a final decision.

Each current planning board member is nominated by their respective county commissioner before being approved by a majority of the county commission. There will be two vacancies at year’s end.

Robert Hoyt, who represents District 5 on the planning board, said Iglesias, or whoever is representing the district at the time, should be involved rather than the commissioner.

“I don’t think that it’s right to have the District 2 planning commissioner excluded from this process,” Hoyt said. “Frankly, they ought to be the chairman of it, rather than the commissioner, because the board of commissioners’ process is ultimately a political process. The planning commissioner process is about land use.”

Levent voiced concerns that only District 2 would have a separate board and that he thought it was a conflict for Tam to serve on it.

The issue of securing more control over zoning in south Forsyth appears central to both the District 2 planning group and an effort to enact legislation to create the county’s second city, Sharon Springs, which would include much of south Forsyth.

Commissioner Tam has stated in the past that the two matters are unrelated.

As proposed, Sharon Springs would cover an area of south Forsyth stretching from the Fulton County line to Hwy. 20 with an eastern border of the Chattahoochee River and a western border of Ga. 400. The new city would have about 50,000 residents.

In March, District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon introduced a bill in the Georgia General Assembly to initiate the initiate the process of creating the city.

The bill cannot be approved until the 2016 legislative session, which starts in January. If it clears the General Assembly, a referendum on the city could be held later that year.

Only those living within the proposed city limits — an estimated quarter of the county’s population — would be eligible to vote. If the measure were to pass at the polls, the city could begin operating by 2017.

Sharon Springs has been billed as a “city light,” offering only zoning, code enforcement and sanitation. Supporters have said it would not impose property taxes or use or create a new sales tax.