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New-look zoning districts have quick appeal
Two developers alter requests
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Forsyth County News

Changes to residential zoning districts in Forsyth County approved last week have already drawn interest.

The county’s planning board heard from two developers who initially applied for a rezoning to Res-4, but on Tuesday night asked for approval as a Res-3 under the new requirements.

Five days earlier, the county commission adopted new performance standards for the two most popular residential zoning districts that brought the categories closer together.

The lot size for Res-3 fell from 14,500 to 10,000 square feet, and Res-4 rose from 6,000 to 8,000 square feet. Minimum home sizes increased in both categories.

The commission made the changes with the hope of moving developers back toward a Res-3 zoning, which was formerly the most popular and fits within the county’s comprehensive plan.

In the county’s future development map, a large majority of the land is characterized as “suburban living,” which includes Res-3, but not Res-4 zoning.

The reduction in the minimum lot size for Res-3, to about .23 acres, was the primary attraction Tuesday night for applicants seeking to develop subdivisions.

Howard Carson had requested a Res-4, previously allowing four units per acre, with a density of only 1.7 units per acre, so the developer could build homes on the smaller minimum lot size.

Based on the recent changes, the less intense Res-3 would accomplish the same goal.

The planning board, in a 5-0 vote, recommended approval to rezone the 47-acre site on Trammel Road to Res-3 with the density as requested.

Similarly, Shiloh Barnett LLC changed its Res-4 rezoning request to Res-3, while also reducing the number of lots planned from 48 to 41 to meet the maximum allowable density of 2.5 units per acre.

Attorney Emory Lipscomb said the new Res-3 “would accommodate our client’s intentions on this property.”

The board heard from several neighbors who felt either a Res-3 or Res-4 would be too dense to maintain the Shiloh Road area’s character, which has larger lots.

The planning board voted 5-0 to recommend approval to a Res-3 zoning on the site, which is about 16 acres.

The third developer requesting a Res-4 rezoning on Tuesday, however, opted not to seek the new Res-3.

Attorney Josh Scoggins said Lennar Georgia planned to build lots in the 9,000 to 10,000 square foot range, which would fall just below the minimum for Res-3.

Lennar seeks to build 150 homes on the 71-acre site on Mullinax Road. Scoggins said the intent was to build as a Res-4 getting as close to the “old Res-3” standards as possible.

In 2007, the county made a change to the zoning district standards, which increased the minimum lot size for Res-3 from 9,000 square feet to 14,500.

As the housing market returned, developers had commonly been requesting Res-4 to maintain those smaller lot sizes, which is one of the reasons sparking the commission’s change.

Scoggins noted that several applications for Res-4 had been approved despite not fitting within the suburban character area that defines most of the county’s future development map.

Both the Shiloh Barnett and Lennar applications reviewed Tuesday were accompanied by a “non-supportive” staff recommendation, in large part because a Res-4 did not fit with the comprehensive plan for those sites.

Planning board member Joe Moses opposed the Res-4 rezoning for Lennar after asking questions about the future development map.

The board as a whole recommended approval as a Res-4 in the 4-1 vote, but conditioned the zoning to a minimum lot size of 9,000 square feet.

County commissioners are scheduled to take the final vote on all three rezonings at their Aug. 15 meeting.