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New use pitched for former jail site
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Forsyth County News


A property owned but not used by Forsyth County could become home to a business park.

The Forsyth County Development Authority and the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce view the 33-acre site on Veterans Memorial Boulevard as a prime spot.

The concept of a publically-owned business park has been a topic of conversation among officials for years, said James McCoy, chamber president and CEO.

The site was originally purchased with a jail and sheriff's headquarters in mind.

However, after voters rejected a bond referendum to build the facilities in 2008, the site is no longer marked for any particular county use, McCoy said.

"The benefit of that, of course, is now we can really take a look at this being a revenue source for the community," he said.

According to McCoy, many other cities and counties -- including Gainesville and Canton and Hall and Cherokee counties -- have these type of business parks.

Often, the revenue stream to the county from businesses locating in the park can make the development an appealing option to local government, McCoy said.

The value to the community, he said, is "the tax investment from job creation."

McCoy and Bobby Thomas, development authority chairman, pitched the idea Tuesday to county commissioners, who voted 5-0 to give approval to the authority to move forward.

Thomas noted the proposal is a "concept," but one the development authority can begin pursuing with the commission's blessing.

The county commission agreed, with Commissioner Pete Amos thanking the chamber and authority for "taking initiative."

The final product could take years to complete, McCoy acknowledged, but a plan and vision could be ready within three to four months.

At that time, the authority will have a better idea of what types of businesses it may seek to bring to the park.

McCoy said he anticipates office and service-type uses could be considered, but industry would be unlikely.

While the site is not used by the county, the nonprofit Supporting Adoption and Foster Families Together, or SAFFT, has been occupying a house on it at no cost.

County commissioners hope to work with the group to find a way to allow them to continue in that building or perhaps move into the planned park.

The county would also have ample time to alert the organization to its need to have the property back, said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

McCoy recalled that the jail proposal was unpopular with neighbors. He hopes a public business park may be a more acceptable use.

"What's exciting about this is there's a great opportunity for this to turn into something that the entire community can embrace," McCoy said.