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Downtown deck deal draws closer
Flexibility on lot sought from city
The site of two proposed parking decks downtown - photo by Joseph Miller

Just one detail remains in the deal between Forsyth County and Cumming for two new parking decks planned downtown.

The agreement, which Cumming City Council approved last week, redirects $5.3 million the city would receive from the current 1-cent sales tax program to the county to build the decks needed for the new courthouse and jail projects.

In return, the county will give $4 million to the city for park improvements.

Also, the proposal states that any extra money collected from the city’s portion of the sales tax revenue would go to Forsyth, but only if the county reciprocated an equal amount, an estimated $300,000.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the city’s sales tax funding has been earmarked for parking downtown. The exchange will allow the county to fulfill that obligation while Cumming can upgrade City Park.

County commissioners voted 4-0 on Tuesday to approve the intergovernmental agreement with one change, which would allow the location of the smaller deck to be more flexible within the site.

The larger deck, which will house between 430 and 480 parking spaces, will be constructed behind the county administration building.

The smaller deck, holding between 220 and 250 spaces, will go up on city-owned property across Castleberry Road from Goodson Drug Store.

County Manager Doug Derrer said the agreement from the city specified that the smaller deck would be on the southwest corner of that site, closest to the Cumming Fairgrounds.

“Unless it’s a much, much smaller parking facility, it won’t fit in the southwest corner and give you that access you need,” Derrer said. “If we can just have flexibility or latitude to work with the city on where it’s placed, we’re willing to do that.

“The issue is if they lock it down to that southwest corner, that’s going to be a challenge.”

Derrer said it was his understanding the city hopes to allow for future development on the Castleberry Road frontage, which is why the particular location was specified.

The commission reworded the agreement to allow the deck to be placed on the southern portion of the parcel with assistance from the project’s contracted architect.

The change forces the amended agreement back to the city council for final approval, which commissioners noted adds time to a tight construction schedule.

“These are minor changes, but I think it’s for the betterment of the parking deck to be able to put it where our architect says it’s going to be best working,” said Commission Chairman Pete Amos.

Construction of the deck behind the county administration building will require additional property.

The agreement states the county will handle the acquisition of land between Mason Street and Pilgrim Mill Road, which currently houses an L-shaped retail center.

Jarrard said the .86-acre parcel owned by ACH Development is needed to accommodate the deck.

“With the city’s blessing, we will be condemning that parcel, assuming that we’re not able to reach an amicable acquisition with the property owner,” Jarrard said. “Those efforts are ongoing already.”

Also in the agreement, the city will abandon a portion of Mason Street to allow for the larger deck to be built.

In turn, the county will improve School Street to a two-way road with a sidewalk on one side.

The initial draft of the courthouse and jail projects, distributed prior to the 1-cent sales tax referendum voters approved in November 2011, showed the parking deck behind the courthouse.

The commission opted to go with an architectural concept that would allow for more open space in front of the new facility, but displaced the original parking deck location and led to the two-deck plan.