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Rebound resulting in review
Board examines density, lot sizes
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Forsyth County News

Other business

Also during its work session Tuesday night, Forsyth County’s planning board:

• Reviewed a rezoning proposal for 83 acres on Daves Creek Drive from Agricultural to Res-6, the county’s highest density residential zoning.

Members highlighted concerns they had heard from residents, and expect a large turnout for the May 28 public hearing on the issue.

• Discussed the first home occupation permit application since unified development code changes that allow the board to make the final call.

The permit would allow for a watercraft repair business on 5 acres zoned agricultural on Dawsonville Highway. The longtime business seeks a new permit to comply with updated county regulations.

• Heard information from the county attorney on proper procedure for open and ethical government on the planning board. The session was prompted by questions from members and staff.

— Alyssa LaRenzie

As development picks up again in Forsyth County, standards in the unified development code are being re-examined.

The planning board reviewed some proposed code changes during a work session Tuesday night.

Up for a public hearing next week are modifications to residential zoning districts, administrative variances and extended permits.

The zoning district proposal would affect minimum lot sizes, maximum density and minimum home square footage in Res-3 and Res-4.

Lot size and density would decrease in Res-3, but home size would increase from a 1,250- to 2,000-square-feet minimum for subdivisions.

Res-3 performance standards should affect the majority of the county, since the future development map calls for primarily Res-2 and Res-3 zonings across Forsyth, said Vanessa Bernstein-Goldman, senior long-range planner.

“If the majority of the county is defined by a single character area, then I think really looking at those Res-3 numbers is vitally important,” Bernstein-Goldman said.

The county commission requested the changes to reduce minimum lot size from 14,500 to 10,500 square feet and density from 2.5 to 2.2 units per acre.

Planning director Tom Brown said the reductions are intended to bring Res-3 closer in line with the 9,000-square-foot lots allowed prior to the changes made about six years ago.

“They’re seeing a lot of demand for new lots in areas that already have a lot of 9,000-square-foot lots,” Brown said. “Because years ago, Res-3 changed and went up to 14,500, we don’t have a great product to offer.”

Res-4 currently has a minimum lot size of 6,000 square feet, and so developers may be requesting the potentially more dense zoning to match up to those 9,000-square-foot lots, which can draw more neighbor concerns, Brown said.

The new Res-4 proposal would increase that minimum lot size to 8,000 square feet and reduce the density from 4 to 3.6 units per acre. The minimum home size would increase from 800 to 1,250 square feet.

The UDC changes proposed would also allow for staff to approve certain types of variances of less than 15 percent, instead of requiring a full application process.

Also, the duration of time until a permit expires would be extended for site development, road clearing, grading and others.
Some additional changes will be floated at a public hearing May 28.

Brown said several developers have been asking about a recent change to allow up to 18 inches of overhang to encroach in the setback without needing a variance.

The recent modification didn’t lower the requirement to leave at least 20 feet between structures, Brown said, and so he will ask the planning board whether it would like to consider that change next week.

If the board is interested, a third public hearing would be added in June prior to the county commission’s hearing in July, when the changes could be adopted.

Member Joe Moses asked if the board would consider another amendment to add a vice chairman to its officers.

Unlike other county panels, the planning board has only a chairman and secretary, and so could have a quorum of three without having a dedicated person to lead the meeting, Moses said.

That change could also be added for the potential June public hearing.