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Honda plan shifts to commission
Planning board gives dealership 4-1 OK
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Forsyth County News

Despite pleas from residents for more time, plans for a proposed Honda dealership are in the hands of the Forsyth County commission.

Sobh Automotive of Cumming's request to rezone about 11.8 acres on Peachtree Parkway to commercial business cleared the county planning board in a 4-1 vote Tuesday night. New board member Jim Quinn opposed the measure.

The commission, which decides such matters, could consider the planning board's recommendation next month.

The property is currently zoned as agricultural and commercial.

Speaking on behalf of the dealership, local attorney Emory Lipscomb told the board three of the original seven variances sought have been altered based on community concerns. Three others were deleted and one is unchanged.

That request, he explained, was for a buffer variance of 25 feet instead of the 50 feet required to join property zoned as agricultural or residential.

He explained that the Shiloh Point Elementary School site, on the west side of the proposed dealership, is zoned agricultural. Land to the north is residential.

Brian Dill, vice president of economic development for the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, also spoke in favor of the dealership's request.

"This time last year ... our unemployment rate in Forsyth County was 2.9 percent, today it's roughly around 5.7 percent," he said, adding that the dealership could bring in a more than $9 million capital investment, create 85 new jobs and a continuing payroll and tax base of more than $4 million.

Owen Jones, who has lived on Stoney Point Road for 25 years, suggested Sobh go on Hwy. 9, where other car dealerships exist.

"Zoning a new dealership for Honda on (Hwy.) 141 would set a precedent," he said. "And once you start these things there's no stopping."

Jones was one of many residents, including members of Smart Growth Forsyth, who asked the board to postpone its decision to allow the community more time to evaluate the request.

The commission meeting room was packed with those who wanted to share their concerns. Some cheered and others jeered during presentations for and against the plan.

At one point, Planning Commission Chairman Barry Russell reprimanded the crowd.

"If there is another outburst from anyone in this room, I will have you removed," he said.

Also Tuesday night, the planning board chose new officers.

Barry Russell was named chairman, while Pam Livesay, previous chairwoman, became vice chairwoman and Brant Meadows was named secretary.

The commission also welcomed new members Quinn and Matt Murphy, who replace outgoing members Mary Helen McGruder and Bettina Hammond.