A rezoning for a planned subdivision across from Lambert High School received approval at a lower density than proposed by the developer.
Forsyth County commissioners voted 5-0 on Thursday to rezone 35 acres on Nichols Road from agricultural to a Res-3, which is one zoning category less intense than the requested Res-4.
Ballantry homes initially sought to build 104 homes, for a density of nearly three units per acre. The Res-3 standards allow a maximum density of 2.5 units per acre.
Commissioner Brian Tam first proposed a density of 2.25 units per acre with approval of a variance to bring homes closer together, but that voted failed 2-3. He received support from Commissioner Todd Levent.
In Tam’s second version of the motion, which was ultimately approved, he removed the variance and increased the density to 2.5 units per acre.
“The density and the lot size — in particular, the lot size — are not consistent with other existing developments in the area,” he said, adding that he weighed that with the fact that the property owners and developer have a right to have the site zoned in some capacity.
The approved rezoning also deleted some of the recommended conditions, including the requirement that Ballantry donate $50,000 to Lambert.
Commissioners may have been responding to the pleas of residents commenting at the meeting’s outset in their determination to downsize the request.
Several south Forsyth homeowners asked that future development be paused or managed to a lower density to match the available infrastructure in the county, and especially to stay within or near the capacity of public schools.
Tom Page presented a petition signed by about 5,000 area residents opposing high density residential development.
Page, the president of the Laurel Springs Homeowners Association, said the petition arose from a newly formed group, called the Forsyth HOA & Homeowners, focused on managing the recent trend of higher density development in the county.
“My main concern does not lie with individual zonings,” he said. “My goal in this petition was to educate, organize and motivate the residents of Forsyth County to take ownership of our future.
“The people are speaking. They don’t want high density and most want residential development curbed overall until our schools, roads and infrastructure can effectively handle it.”
The message has become a common one, as residents have spoken against the influx of high density at several consecutive commission meetings.
Residents expressing that sentiment on Thursday said they appreciated the comments of Commissioner Jim Boff during his announcement at the opening of the meeting.
Boff pointed to the county’s need for infrastructure expansion in comparison to the recent growth, primarily in south Forsyth.
He called on the commission and public to modify the county’s future development map to reflect a more manageable density.
“Limit the rate of zonings, especially in areas that are already out of resources until we can clearly see a plan for the expansion of the schools, the resolution of the sewer plant and path for water supply and distribution management, as well as the source of funding for these plans,” Boff said.
“Otherwise, at the current rate of growth … we the taxpayers will be challenged to fight one zoning after another.”
He said his comments were generalized and not about a particular issue, which became clear when he made the first suggestion for the Ballantry request.
Boff motioned to grant a Res-4 at the planning commission recommended density of 2.77 units per acre.
That motion, which did not receive a second, added a condition that 10 percent of the homes initially sold go to owners who qualify for the county’s school tax exemption, which is granted to residents 65 and older.