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Proposed UDC change carries more public input
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Forsyth County News

FORSYTH COUNTY — The public soon may have additional opportunities to offer input on future residential developments.

During a work session Tuesday, the Forsyth County commission voted 5-0 to move forward with an adjustment to the county’s unified development code, or UDC.

The change would require an additional public hearing when developers of new subdivisions seek to shift from a higher to a lower density zoning.

Commissioner Brian Tam proposed the switch, saying he believes neighbors of future developments should have full access to provide input, even if a change would lower the number of homes or density of a project.

“If [a] zoning application decreases in intensity, right now … they’re not required to have another public participation meeting, which makes stakeholders, surrounding residents, a little uneasy because they don’t know what the plan is,” Tam said.

During discussion of the matter, commissioners first questioned if planning staff would have sufficient time to review projects before holding an additional public hearing.

Tom Brown, director of the county’s planning and zoning department, said a 15-day turnaround — suggested by Tam as the time frame to hold the second public hearing —  would not allow staff time to complete a full review of new plans and post the proper signage on site.

“How would [site plans] be different than the first time through?” Brown asked. “Is it going to be submitted to our office? In a 15-day turnaround, it most likely will not have a full staff review in that time.”

However, County Attorney Ken Jarrard noted that staff would not need to be involved in simply adding another public participation meeting.

“Right now under the zoning procedures law and our UDC, someone has the right to apply for a Res-4 or whatever it is, and if you all [commissioners] want to give them something less than that, you have the right to do that … planning staff doesn’t have to be involved.

“I’m not hearing anything that suggests that staff, which is not doing this now, needs to revisit this issue at all. If this is just an issue where you want the public — the stakeholders, folks who have been involved — to be involved, that’s a real simple UDC revision.

“If it’s just about letting the stakeholders get involved, that’s real easy.”

Due to a change to the text of the code, Jarrard added, a public hearing would be required before the change is officially put in place.

Commissioners voted unanimously to hold that hearing on the next available date.

Due to the nature of the change, Jarrard said after the meeting that the public hearing would need to be held before the county’s planning board.

“[The change] will need to be drafted and then advertised,” he said, noting that it would likely be late August before a hearing could be held.