A north Forsyth school for special needs children received permission Tuesday night to use on-site sewage disposal with a 5,000-foot variance instead of having to connect to public sewer.
The Forsyth County Zoning Board of Appeals approved the request 4-1 during its regular meeting, with board member Fred Kerr voting against the measure.
Property owner Chuck Pugh made the request for the North Georgia Autism Center. The school recently moved to the 2.75-acre site at 1575 Dahlonega Hwy. from its previous location on Burruss Road.
Engineer David Randolph, who spoke on Pugh's behalf, cited several issues involved with the need to use an on-site system, including the cost.
"The difference in cost going with the on-site sewer system versus a gravity system for this particular site would be the difference in about $12,000 worth on-site sewer system or septic system and $120,000 to $200,000 for a gravity system," Randolph said.
He said an existing building on the property is currently being used for the school. Plans call for building a new structure to house the school and then use the current building as an office.
Randolph said a new septic system was installed in 2006 for the existing building.
Pugh said the school will use small classroom environments and that students are there for anywhere from two hours to an entire school day.
Board member Jim Kinsey said the health department would regulate an on-site system.
"Any future development there and expansion of facilities is going to have go under complete review again and all these questions will be raised again," he said.
"So if we're worried about a bigger building or different use some time in the future, I think we're protected from approving something now that we wouldn't later."
Kinsey also noted that the county's ordinance requiring projects within 5,000 feet of sewer to expand is geared more toward large commercial or residential developments.
Board chairman John Mobley made the motion to approve the request "in light of the burden being solely on the applicant."