A new annexation request from the city of Cumming, a possible change to an Atlanta-region group and potential new categories for mixed-use developments were among items discussed this week at a meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners work session.
All items were approved by a 5-0 vote unless otherwise noted.
In the latest chapter in an ongoing issue between Forsyth County and the city of Cumming, this week discussed the annexation of about 43 acres.
Commissioners did not make a decision, and have until Oct. 11 to do so, but discussed the annexation of land adjacent to the upcoming Cumming City Center on Canton Highway.
All but one of the parcels are already partially in the city limits. During a previous, separate annexation, Forsyth County objected because the request did not include the entire parcel.
“Candidly folks, you know we have raised an objection before when there have been annexations that have only comprised portions of a parcel,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard. “That tells me that those city limits were expanded years and years and years ago before we were watching these things.”
The area is proposed to be zoned planned unit district (PUD) if the annexation is approved.
The item will come back to a future meeting.
In recent months, issues with annexations have come up between the county and the city, including 113.5 acres on Pilgrim Road between Hwy. 9 and Pilgrim Road and about 150 acres on Market Place Boulevard and Turner Road.
Headed to the city?
Forsyth County is often caught between its traditional place among the northeast Georgia counties and its more recent place as being considered part of Metro Atlanta, and a decision from commissioners could soon cement the status of the latter.
During the work session, commissioners voted to go ahead with moving from the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission to the Atlanta Regional Commission. Both groups are among 12 regional commissions in the state that provide plans for the respective region.
This year, both the city of Cumming and the county have considered whether to leave the GMRC for the ARC.
“When it comes to your participation and policy level, who do you see being at the table with similar issues? Is it Fulton, Gwinnett and Cherokee and the cities within them or is it Hall and Dawson?” said County Manager Eric Johnson. “My sense is that it is probably ARC. We’re already aligning with them on certain issues out of necessity because they deal with water and transportation, but the research capabilities with ARC are a significant factor, too.”
ARC represents Henry, Cobb, Rockdale, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Douglas, Cherokee, Fulton and Fayette counties, municipalities in those counties and the city of Atlanta.
GMRC is made up of Forsyth, Dawson, Lumpkin, Union, Towns, White, Hall, Banks, Habersham, Rabun, Stephens, Franklin and Hart counties and their cities.
The process to change over would involve going through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and gaining approval by the Georgia General Assembly.
What’s the use?
Mixed-use developments, known for their work-live-play offerings, are growing in popularity across Forsyth County, and the county could soon have new rules for what’s allowed.
During the meeting, commissioners heard from Tom Brown, director of the county’s department of planning and community development, who offered a proposal for three new zoning categories: master planned residential (MPR); Mixed Use 1 (MU1); and Mixed Use 2 (MU2). Currently, such developments are only allowed under the county’s master planned district (MPD).
The proposed minimum acreage would be 40 acres for each development.
MPR would be a residential-only category “that includes a mix of lot sizes and product types” and would have a minimum of 20% open space.
MU1 would be used for smaller-scale mixed-use projects with “intensity designed to serve the local neighborhoods and communities” for office, retail, restaurants and residential, whereas MU2 would have “higher concentrations of employment and commercial uses” and would allow the applicant to propose any use, with the plan being that commissioners would vote down anything unreasonable.
Under Brown’s proposals, a minimum of 40% of the project would have to be commercial.
Commissioners pushed back against some of the suggestions, such as the minimum acreage for the developments.
“I don’t think you should be locked down on a number because I don’t know what’s magic between 40 [acres] and 39,” said District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills.
Commissioners expressed interest in bringing unique projects to the county but did not want the local rules to be too restrictive.
“I think what we’re trying to do is use that [MU2] category to be the amazing … If you have something that’s truly different, there has got to be some quantifiable, objective measures that we can use that we say has to check two or three or four boxes,” said Chairwoman Laura Semanson.
Commissioners took no action for the item, and it will come back to commissioners on their Tuesday, Oct. 22 work session.