Also during their meeting Thursday night, Forsyth County commissioners:
• Approved changes to the sign ordinance to allow back-lit signs for non-residential uses in residential or agricultural zonings, as well as updating the definition and requirements for banners. Chairman Jim Boff was opposed in the 4-1 vote.
• Granted sketch plat approval, a conditional use permit for a school and a sewer variance for Living Faith Lutheran.
The church plans to build on Atlanta Highway across from the Liberty subdivision.
The sewer variance for septic will be allowed until the church obtains a building permit for the future church or school, at which time it will pay for the expensive boring under the highway to connect to the nearest public sewer hookup.
• Heard a presentation and opened a public hearing on the property tax rates for 2013, which have been proposed at the same rates as 2012.
No one spoke during the hearing.
With the county and school taxes steady, Finance director David Gruen said a slight drop in the state millage will amount to a $3.90 decrease in estimated taxes on a $200,000 home.
• Agreed to discuss potential litigation involving Settingdown and Waterscape in a closed executive session.
The issue involves the private Hampton sewer plant, of which Forsyth County is the trustee. A judge ordered mediation, and Forsyth County was invited to participate.
Also, the county has been put on notice of a possible suit by Settingdown regarding the county not adjusting regulated sewer rates.
The commission planned to discuss whether to participate in the mediation and how to handle the rate adjustment issue in its closed session after the regular meeting.
Boff opposed postponing the matter to executive session in a 4-1 vote.
Note: All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.
— Alyssa LaRenzie
Forsyth County commissioners cast votes on zoning condition changes or variance requests for 10 subdivisions on Thursday night.
“Just like the old days,” said Commissioner Brian Tam before the final vote for a variance request.
Tam, who has been a commissioner since 2005, sat through many housing request-filled meetings during the local boom.
The number of such items has gone down as the real estate market stalled. But if Thursday’s meeting was any indication, construction is picking up.
Ethan Underwood, a local attorney representing a builder, presented some requests to change zoning conditions to adapt subdivision plans to those of the new owner who’s picked up the project.
“We’re fortunate there’s builders coming in buying these lots,” Underwood said. “But there’s a little cleanup work we have to do.”
Howard Carson, a developer from Atlanta, spoke about requests to make changes for conditions on three subdivisions.
He said one was purchased from foreclosure, another sat for years until he found a builder and the third was a “green pipe” neighborhood he hopes to complete.
Green pipe subdivisions are those that have been prepared for development, but few to none of the homes have been completed, leaving just green pipes marking the lots.
Commissioner Todd Levent said he’d recently been approached by a member of the planning commission seeking a possible incentive program for developers who pick up these stalled subdivisions.
“After tonight’s agenda, I don’t know that we have to get involved,” Levent said.
According to Levent, the market appears to be moving independently toward the development of these types of sites.
Chairman Jim Boff agreed: “It’s encouraging that this inventory has been taken up.”
Boff added that Forsyth seems to be recovering in its housing market to a “larger degree” than surrounding areas.
The subdivisions seeking changes to get development started were primarily in the southern half of the county.
District 4 Commissioner Patrick Bell said the market has not picked up in north Forsyth, which he represents.