Changes to the county’s massage and spa ordinance, amending conditions for a local cricket field and the withdrawal of a controversial annexation were among items discussed by commissioners.
All items were approved by a 5-0 vote, unless otherwise noted.
Cricket parking proposal
Commissioners approved a county-initiated request to amend a zoning condition for The Fields at Keith Bridge, also known as the Atlanta Cricket Fields, which requires all parking for events at the facility be either on-site or off-site and through a shuttle service and allowing neighbors to tow cars on their properties.
The change was sought after complaints from neighbors living near the field after an event celebrating Holi, the celebration of the Hindu spring festival, drew thousands of guests and hundreds of cars, including many who parked on property not owned by The Fields. Traffic on the road was backed up for at least half an hour.
“On the day that this – I’ll call it calamity – occurred, it was a surprise and a shock to everyone,” said District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills. “I got calls and calls and calls, and the Sheriff’s Office said that people couldn’t tow cars that were parked there in their private yard, not even in right of way, because they thought there was a permitting process.”
An official with the cricket fields said there was parking available at the fields during the festival but, along with members of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, a decision was made to only let cars in and out on the event on the same side of the road as the field – with those on the other side needing to make a U-turn – to keep traffic moving, which some attendees took to mean parking was full.
No permit was pulled by organizers for the event, and county officials said there wasn’t a permit available under county rules that would have allowed the event.
“We’ve put the owner on notice that we believe this event was improper, and we have given them guidance as to what the county’s expectations [are], and we have given them guidance of what will occur if it happens again,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.
A zoning condition change would be needed to allow any future events.
Forsyth County residents returning home to find advertisements left on the door or mailbox may soon have some relief.
Commissioners held the first public hearing, meaning they could not take action, on an ordinance change that would put those leaving flyers at homes to play by the same rules as companies doing door-to-door sales, including registering with the sheriff’s office.
“I don’t have to tell the board that in the world we live in, going up to someone’s porch and knocking on their door if you don’t have an Amazon or UPS shirt on, is a little bit of an intimidating thing,” Jarrard said. “The concern is … now individuals appear to be going up and knocking on doors and they may not be selling wares but they are leaving flyers or handbills or documentation advertising these products, and it appears to be a loophole because our ordinance does not cover that.”
Jarrard said he is currently looking into whether or not political and religious flyers would be in the same category as those for commercial uses.
The item is expected to come back to commissioners next month.
After commissioner approval, rules aimed at stopping illicit activities, including sex trafficking and prostitution, at massage businesses will be a little stronger.
“The changes in here, as we told you before, are tweaks to the ordinance to tighten it up a little bit given observations from me and court prosecuting under this ordinance and law enforcement in trying to issue citations, just things we’ve seen throughout,” said Molly Esswein, an attorney with County Attorney Ken Jarrard’s office.
Changes include requiring employees to record the type of service provided, records of each instance and the name of the employee who provided the service before taking the customer to a private room and updating any changes in what was service was offered.
Other changes would clarify language about what employees can wear, set rules for employees regarding touching customers with employees’ private areas, and set that no employee can “intentionally cause the expose of a customer’s private areas.”
Forsyth County first approved new rules for massage businesses in 2015 and has updated the rules since, including a change in 2018 that set up protections to stop those who had violations in other areas from getting permits in Forsyth County.
“We’ve massaged this enough,” District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent joked before the approval.
During a quickly-discussed and approved item, county officials said the county and city will not have to head to an arbitration panel after the annexation request for the Westshore development had been withdrawn.
“However, we had already started the mechanics of assembling the arbitration panel,” Jarrard said. “John West with [the state’s Department of Community Affairs] has requested that the board take formal action to withdraw our request for that arbitration panel.”
Commissioners had previously objected to the annexation of about 57 acres of county land along Market Place Boulevard to the city of Cumming for the proposed Westshore mixed-use development due to the proposed city conditions allowing about 50 percent more units per acre than under county standards.
Westshore was proposed to be a mixed-use development with 322,000 square feet of commercial space, 348 rental units, 20 single-family units and 130 townhomes.