Forsyth County’s planning board recommended approval of a rezoning for a planned subdivision across from Lambert High School on Tuesday night.
Ballantry Homes sought to rezone the 35 acres on Nichols Road from agricultural to Res-4 for 104 lots, a density of nearly 3 homes per acre.
Several south Forsyth residents spoke out against the plan, stating the density of the development would exacerbate traffic issues and crowding in the schools.
The board downsized the request slightly, voting 4-1 to suggest approval of 96 lots as a Res-4. Board member Joe Moses, who represents District 5, which includes the site, voted in opposition. Moses had recommended a less-dense Res-3 zoning with 88 lots.
The approved recommendation moves on for a final vote to the county commission, which could consider the matter Sept. 19. It includes several zoning conditions typical of new subdivisions, such as a minimum 2,800-square-foot home size, construction of a left turn lane into the development and a front exterior of primarily brick.
As a unique condition to the rezoning, Ballantry also offered to contribute $50,000 to Lambert High School from its community development fund, said attorney Ethan Underwood.
“Ballantry wants to be part of the community,” Underwood said. “They will give that $50,000 to Lambert High School to use at its discretion for whatever it feels is necessary to alleviate impacts or just to help while [the subdivision is] in its expansion.”
The school drew the focus of several residents opposing the development, including Susan O’Donnell, a Grand Cascades homeowner who said she recently got a flyer for a website of houses for sale in the Lambert district.
O’Donnell said Res-4 was too intense for the site and the density should be reduced.
Kathy Phillips, who lives in Three Chimneys, said the traffic congestion was a major problem, adding that it takes her nearly 30 minutes to get to Lambert, which is a half-mile away, in the afternoon.
The two lanes on Nichols and a portion of Old Atlanta Road need to be widened before too many homes are crammed into the area.
“For me, it’s a huge concern that all these things are going in so fast,” Phillips said.
Her view that too many homes are being built too quickly in south Forsyth was echoed several times Tuesday, by speakers in the Ballantry rezoning and others.
Derek Kemmerlin, also in Grand Cascades, said the county needs to formulate a plan to guide growth and protect the area’s character as the rezoning requests pour in.
“Other people want what we have,” he said, “and the builders know that.”
The county’s existing future development map, designed as a guide, also came under scrutiny during the rezoning hearing.
The six parcels in the rezoning application are designated as suburban attached living, an uncommon character area that includes only Res-4 as a recommended zoning.
Underwood said the category allows for a range of sizes and price points to provide alternatives in housing.
Dave Richard, a former county commissioner, said the designation made no sense in the area.
“This is clearly one of those planning ‘whoopsies’ that only government can create when they don’t pay attention to what’s going on,” Richard said. “Now we have very smart lawyers … taking advantage of a mistake.”
The plan didn’t call for different sizes or prices, he said, just the higher density of a Res-4.
Kristen Stevens, who lives off Nichols, pointed out that the suburban attached living character area is only designated in two places in south Forsyth: next to Lambert and in the southwestern corner near a regional center.
“They’re both completely different,” Stevens said. “What is suburban attached living supposed to accomplish?”