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300-home subdivision OKd in north Forsyth
Likely will link with extension of Big Creek Greenway

NORTH FORSYTH — The Forsyth County commission voted 5-0 on Thursday night to approve a rezoning that will clear the way for a 300-home subdivision in north Forsyth.

The move reclassified 135.5 acres on Byers Road from agriculture, or A1, to residential, or Res-3.

The property is expected to benefit from its proximity to the nearby Sawnee Mountain Preserve. 

“The Big Creek Greenway, which changes into the Sawnee Mountain Greenway, will come very close to this property and the developer agreed to dedicate a 20-foot right of way and the easements for the construction of that greenway to be a spur to that once it gets there,” said Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills.

Also during a wide-ranging, five-hour meeting Thursday night, the commission discussed issues involving the county’s sign code, and made an amendment concerning billboards along Ga. 400.

Under the change, billboard companies with a vegetation permit will be allowed to lower their signs to conform with state law.

In Forsyth, billboards had been considered legal nonconforming, which meant that they did not comply with the county’s sign code and could not be altered.

The signs currently along the highway were built before the code was changed and grandfathered in.

Last year, Georgia passed legislation to allow billboard companies to obtain permits to cut trees near a sign if they lowered it to 75 feet.

The local change prevents companies from getting permits without having to lower signs, which was previously illegal.

The commission also held a public hearing and discussed changing the sign ordinance regarding electronic message boards.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, the county will hold a specially called public hearing about whether to enact a 90-day moratorium on converting nonconforming signs along Ga. 400 to LED signs.


Tree ordinance revised


During the meeting, the commission also revised the county’s tree protection and replacement ordinance.

Under the changes, the minimum size of “specimen trees” would change from 18 inches in diameter for hardwood and softwood trees and 8 inches for understory to 22 inches for hardwood, 25 inches for softwood and 10 inches for understory.

Other revisions include that each new single family residence must have at least two trees, with one in the front yard. The calculation for critical root zone was moved from a measure of the drip line of tree branches to a measurement to the zone being 1.3-feet per each inch of the tree’s diameter.

There were also changes to the wording of the ordinance clarifying that new trees planted in buffers would count toward the density of a neighborhood, but existing trees would not.


Mini-warehouse approved


The commission also voted 5-0 to change the zoning conditions for a proposed mini-warehouse storage facility on Old Atlanta Road.

The site is next to a Montessori Academy. After hearing from several parents of students at the school and residents of nearby neighborhoods, Commissioner Brian Tam clarified that the lot was already zoned for commercial use. As a result, the only change was allowing the business to have a second floor.

“The biggest bit of misinformation I believe that is out there is that we’re zoning this for a storage unit, we’re not. A storage unit can be built on there right now,” Tam said. “This is not easy. It’s certainly not popular. It’s certainly not fun.”


Alcohol violations


The commission also handed out punishments for several businesses recently cited for underage sales, including revoking the alcohol license of the BP Gas Station at 901 Buford Highway.

One of the owners of the gas station also had his alcohol license revoked last month, shutting down two other stores.

During the meeting, a Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy described the three stores as the worst in the county for underage sales.