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Part of south Forsyth may get its own planning board

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SOUTH FORSYTH — The county is exploring the possibility of forming a zoning panel that would take a closer look at applications in south Forsyth.

Forsyth County Commissioner Brian Tam has floated the idea of holding a public hearing on a proposed subarea planning commission for District 2, which he represents and which covers much of the county’s populous south end.

“Basically, in an effort to achieve, I guess more local input, I was going to roll out that we start this in one district,” Tam said during a recent work session. “If it works out, by all means, move to the other districts.”

Though the commission took no formal action at the time, a public hearing could be held on the topic at a future meeting to gauge public interest.

As it stands, the group likely would have five members, appointed by the commission, who would work with the county’s planning board.

The issue of having more control over zoning in south Forsyth has been among the top reasons cited by those in favor of creating a second city, Sharon Springs, in the county.

Tam, whose district includes a large portion of the city’s proposed area, said the subarea commission did not come about in reaction to the Sharon Springs concept.

“I think that the county has grown, there’s more and more of a need and desire for the citizens to have more local input. I think that’s what this is designed to do,” he said.

One of his colleagues, Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, offered a different viewpoint.

“It is my understanding that [Sharon Spring] is the origin of it,” Mills said. “It is my understanding that is a good idea, that it would bring government closer to the people and give them something they like.”

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.

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.

Regardless of what happens with Sharon Springs, Tam said he would like to move forward with the subarea commission, as it would give residents another opportunity to be heard.

“I’d like to see this group accomplish, I guess an improved vetting of the issue in the eyes of the public,” Tam said. “In other words, we’re kicking around the idea of at least one additional public hearing, so the ability for the public to get involved would be increased.”