The numbers tell the story of Forsyth's growth
44,000: Approximate Forsyth County population in 1990
98,407: Approximate population in 2000
212,438: Estimated population in 2015
221,009: Estimated population in 2016
2040: Year by when the the metro-Atlanta population is expected to double
401: Percent the population has increased since 1990
168: Percent Cherokee County’s population has increased since 1990 (the highest of Forsyth’s neighbors)
25.9: Percent Forsyth’s population increased from 2010-2016
12.8: Percent Cherokee’s population increased from 2010-2016
It’s no secret Forsyth County is growing rapidly.
Driving on almost any county road, one passes heaps of dirt and orange barrels marking new or soon-to-be construction, and fresh subdivisions seem to be popping out of the ground monthly.
“The single largest issue we have is zonings,” said Todd Levent, chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. “They affect everything else that goes along with county, such as population, taxes, infrastructure, schools and everything else.
“Proper planning is imperative now more than ever.”
According to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Forsyth’s population grew by about 4 percent in 2016, increasing to 221,009 residents from 212,438 in 2015.
The whole area is continuing to grow, based on predictions released last year by the Atlanta Regional Commission, which estimated metro-Atlanta’s population will double by 2040.
Levent said the county’s new comprehensive plan, which will next be discussed and can be transmitted for state and regional review on April 13, seeks to address Forsyth’s expansion.
He credits much of the county’s growth to previous BOCs, saying the current board is working to slow residential development in the county.
“I like to think of it as a buffering video and we have pressed pause until the comp plan is done and the roads and infrastructure have caught up,” he said. “A large percent of growth was due to zonings that were approved in late 1990s through 2008 and sat idle. Though there have been more zonings [in recent years], the majority came in that era.
“The comp plan helps create a formula for that growth.”
Based on data from the 1990 census, Forsyth’s population was about 44,000.
Ten years later, in 2000, the population had more than doubled to 98,407.
While that number was still behind those of most surrounding counties – Fulton, Gwinnett, Hall and Cherokee – Forsyth has consistently taken the lead with its rate of growth, a trend that continues today.
From 2010 to 2016, Forsyth saw a 25.9 percent population increase, a number more than double Cherokee’s growth rate of 12.8 percent, which was the highest out of the five counties that touch Forsyth.
The numbers are even starker for the last 25-or-so years: since 1990, Forsyth’s population has grown by 401 percent.
In comparison, Cherokee saw about a 168 percent increase in those years.
Levent said this is what commissioners are trying to address.
“With the movement of this new comp plan and the input of citizens that we’ve received, it’s clear that county density needs to be reduced, which will ultimately reduce the maximum capacity of the county by 75,000 to 100,000 people,” he said. “We have moratoriums in place for residential uses for medium and higher densities until plans are done, and should [the comprehensive plan] get passed through on April 13, that will be a guide while we work diligently to catch up on infrastructure, roads and schools.”
More houses and people and longer commutes are not the only results of growth.
While those holds on residential zonings remain in place, commercial is expanding — a positive result of the county’s increasing population, said James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.
“I think this is true in a lot of high-growth communities around the country, but our focus is on doing everything we can to grow and expand the commercial component of Forsyth’s economy,” he said. “We aren’t growing at the same rate as residential is, but the county has grown in impressive way.
“You don’t need to look further back than the last two to three years from SmartAsset —we rank in the top 10 in the country for investment, and the census numbers back all that up.”
SmartAsset, a financial technology company, released a study in September that named Forsyth No. 1 in Georgia and No. 9 in the nation for the most incoming investment.
“We’re still working to increase levels of investment,” McCoy said. “That’s almost our exclusive objective and what we have been charged with from commissioners and investors is to grow the commercial portion of our economy and work as hard as we can to grow the number of jobs for private investors.”