Annexation of county land into the city of Cumming, the latest plans for a northwest Forsyth County park and a new ride service for seniors and those with other limitations were among items discussed at a Forsyth County Board of Commissioners work session on Tuesday.
Unless otherwise noted, all voters were approved by a 4-0 vote, with District 4 Commissioner Cindy Mills absent due to a family issue.
The latest in ongoing issues between Forsyth County and the city of Cumming regarding annexations came up during the meeting, as commissioners decided not to formally support or reject the annexation of about 13.5 acres of land behind the Forsyth County Board of Education building on Hwy. 9 for a new project that will include a 1,800-seat performing arts center and three-story Academy for Creative Education.
“Honestly, I can’t say we don’t object to this, but we don’t have the grounds to stand on,” said Chairwoman Laura Semanson, who also said the list of reasons the county could object was too narrow.
Though the board took no action on the actual annexation, commissioners voted to have legal counsel to write a letter to the city saying commissioners would not make a formal decision and voicing several concerns from the county related to annexations, including opposition to the city’s AP zoning designation, which means a property must have the same standards as the county for a year but must be rezoned to a new city designation within 16 months, with a possible two-month extension.
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.
With the 2020 census looming, the city of Cumming and Forsyth County will team up to make sure everyone is counted.
“I met with the city of Cumming and they are interested in doing a joint complete county committee,” said Karen Shields, director of communications. “We would work together on our advertising, our marketing, the information that we would send out.”
Shields said the group would work with community and government groups through the end of the year to provide resources for next year, before starting to get information out at the beginning of the year.
The census gathers information on the population every 10 years that is used for redistricting state and federal lawmakers and other uses.
A new program in the county could soon provide needed rides for the elderly and those with special needs.
Commissioners approved a one-year pilot program with Common Courtesy, a service that connects riders with ride-sharing drivers, to provide transportation in the county. The program is expected to cost $100,000 and provide 5,600 rides.
“The drivers are holding up those walkers and wheelchairs, courteously putting them in the trunk, helping with the groceries and things like that,” said Bob Carr, who formed Common Courtesy with his wife, Anne.
Commissioners asked the business to come back with a list of criteria for riders.
Under the program, riders will sign up for the service with a $15 registration fee and Common Courtesy will provide $2 rides through ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft. No cash will be used and the remainder of the cost will be subsidized through the county.
Riders will be limited to 12 roundtrips each month.
According to a presentation from fleet services director Avery Gravitt, the county provided 21,000 passenger trips while denying 2,700, including 766 medical trips, through the county’s Dial-A-Ride program in 2018. Forsyth County Senior Services provided 14,678 rides that year.
“We think with this pilot program we’re really going to make a big dent in being able to help out with those who can’t book trips through our programs,” he said.
Gravitt said the program will not replace the county’s existing ride services.
A mixed-use development near South Forsyth High School has some new plans.
Commissioners voted to “proceed with a major amendment” to a previously approved mixed-use project north of the intersection of Brannon Road and Ronald Reagan Boulevard and on Access Drive and south of the intersection with Hood Drive. The change was needed as original plans to use part of the land for retail use have been scrapped in favor of building a multi-story medical center.
“The primary obstacle they have is the height limitation,” said Tom Brown, the county’s director of planning and community development.
Brown said the plans include three-story and four-story buildings.
The project, which sits on about 57 acres, was approved in 2016 and altered in early-2017.
Public meetings, including a public hearing, will be held as part of the process. Both the amendment and the rezoning will go through six-week staff review cycles.