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Mansion owner sues to block complex
Questions the density, zoning granted
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Forsyth County News

The owner of a Trammel Road mansion has launched a lawsuit against the Forsyth County commission after it approved zoning conditions that clear the way for apartments on neighboring property.

Richard L. Jackson filed the suit in Forsyth County Superior Court, requesting an appeal of the commission’s Oct. 18 decision to grant zoning condition amendments for GJ Enterprises Acquisitions LLC to build apartments instead of townhomes off Highway 20.

The developer plans a complex with 202 units on about 12 of the site’s nearly 34 acres, which are zoned as a master planned development, allowing for both commercial and residential components.

The original conditions of the December 2007 property zoning required a maximum residential density of 3.9 units per acre, which was increased to 6 units per acre in the recent amendments.

Jackson, represented by attorney Andrea Cantrell Jones, believes the commission’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious.” According to his Nov. 2 complaint, it also did not follow the rules set forth in the county’s unified development code.

Some of those procedural issues named in the complaint include the commission’s acceptance of the applicant’s failure to explain why the prior conditions couldn’t be met and its lack of consideration of the criteria for zoning amendments.

According to County Attorney Ken Jarrard, Forsyth received the suit earlier this week, so commissioners have not yet been able to consider the case.

“Therefore, at the present time I must respectfully not comment on this case,” Jarrard wrote in an e-mail.

The county’s response to the complaint is due within 30 days.

The lawsuit asks a judge to grant declaratory judgment that the county “had no objective factual basis to support the approval of the application, and as such, have destroyed [Jackson’s] property rights without first paying fair, adequate and just compensation for such rights.”

Jones said by phone that such a decision by the judge would send the case back to the commission to reconsider.

“My client has concerns about the density on the property next door,” she said. “When he bought Le Reve, it had [conditions] for the town homes next door. That’s what he thought it was going to be. There are security and property value issues that he believes this apartment zoning is going to cause.”

Jackson bought the Trammel Road property of about 72 acres for $11.5 million in July 2011, according to county property records.

The site is home to the Le Reve estate, which boasts 82 rooms and about 47,000 square feet. The estate also includes a two-lane bowling alley, private nine-hole golf course and movie theater.

It was originally listed for sale in 2008 at $45 million by original owner Hubert Humphrey, who founded World Leadership Group, an independent marketing company based in Georgia.

Though it sold for much less, the estate is still a “valuable asset” in the county’s tax digest, as explained in a notice Jones sent to commissioners prior to filing the suit.

The property tax bill for 2012 nears $88,000, including the convenience fee.