A move from one state regional group to another, the latest on a truck terminal in south Forsyth and a planned grocery store development were among items discussed last week at a regular meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.
All items were approved by a 5-0 vote, unless otherwise noted.
A new place to grab groceries
Commissioners approved the rezoning of 15.7 acres of at the northeast corner of Canton Highway (Hwy. 20) and Tribble Road (Hwy. 371) from agricultural (A1), commercial business (CBD), single-family residential (R1) and single-family residential restricted (R2R) districts to CBD for 83,853 square feet of commercial buildings, including a 51,908-square-foot large-scale retail business with 463 parking spaces and a conditional-use permit for gas pumps that can stay open overnight.
“This was designed to be a major activity center, and, again, this is setting the tone for the area,” said zoning attorney Ethan Underwood.
District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper represents the area and agreed with Underwood that the development would have a big impact on the area and described the plan as a “modern farm look.”
“Until this came along, pretty much what we have there on Hwy. 20 on the west side is outdoor storage and of course some homes that sit far back away from the road, so this is going to be something that sets the whole commercial look for Hwy. 20,” she said.
Variances for parking, reducing setbacks, and buffers and reducing lot width were among variances approved for the development part of the motion, while architectural variances were approved as its own item.
Plans submitted with the application show a grocery store, a gas/convenience station and several retail portions, including out parcels and spaces for restaurants.
The property will also have access from Era Drive and Era Road.
The name of the grocery tenant was not discussed at the meeting, though at a previous meeting, officials indicated it may be a Publix.
Moving to the city
Over the last year, commissioners and city of Cumming officials have discussed whether to stay in the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission or move to the Atlanta Regional Commission.
On Thursday, commissioners approved a resolution requesting the state board of community affairs move Forsyth County to the ARC.
When asked by District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent about the benefit of the change, Chair Laura Semanson said it would put the county with others “that share similar types of struggles with respect to growth, economic development, that are more similar to the issues that we deal with here, rather than some of the more rural, remote counties that are driven by different economic development issues.”
Both groups are among 12 regional commissions in the state that provide plans for the respective region.
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.
Discussion on changes has looked at the resources of offerings and both commissions and which set Forsyth was more like.
There was no resolution to the most controversial item of Thursday’s meeting but a decision will be made at an upcoming meeting.
Commissioners heard about plans to amend zoning conditions and a sketch plat application to operate a truck terminal and major and minor automobile establishments with 133 parking spaces with an office/warehouse in existing buildings totaling 18,000 square feet with 26 parking spaces on about seven acres from RUS-AL (USA) Inc., at 755 Union Hill Road, near the intersection with McFarland Parkway.
Much of the debate surrounding the use of the property as Underwood, who was representing the owner pointed out that it was a majorly industrial area, while neighbors pointed to the growing residential areas and the proximity to nearby DeSana Middle School.
“To that, we say that we certainly want children to be safe and families to be safe,” Underwood said. “I would propose that individual drivers are probably more cautious than folks that are trying to zip back and forth that are trying to get to work.”
He said about 10-20 trucks a day would come to the property.
Neighbors living in the area cited existing traffic and the additions of residential areas.
“It’s not an industrial area,” said resident Michelle Cleveland. “It may have been a large industrial area at one point, but there are more and more and more new family neighborhoods coming up and there are new family neighborhoods every day, there’s more new family construction every day, so what may have been initially more of an industrial kind of area has been turning over toward a family area, and they’re kind of on the downside of that trend and the family areas are on the upside of that trend.”
District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said the situation showed the importance of having a cohesive plan for an area, citing a previous zoning change in the area from industrial to residential paved the way for one of the neighborhoods.
She also referenced a recent push by leaders to increase business in the county to lessen the burden on property taxes for the county’s tax digest.
“If we want to protect commercial that is for our tax digest in the future, we need to be really careful that we let land change to residential, because once it’s changed to residential … if we only ever listen to the people that live there, how are we going to get our tax digest straightened out,” she said.
A decision will be made at the Thursday, Nov. 21 meeting.
Serving special needs
Some funding from the state level could help the programs for locals with special needs, including a proposed home for adults with special needs.
Commissioners approved a resolution to have county staff prepare and issue a request to conduct a survey alongside the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities (DBHDD). The study will look at the disabled population in the community and what needs exist.
County Manager Eric Johnson said the funding could be used to pursue “some housing opportunity within our community.”
Johnson said the county would use a third-party for the search as no one on the county staff had expertise with those issues but said Ruthie Brew, director of senior services, will work with those doing the survey.
“We don’t have anyone that has the housing experience, and we don’t have anyone that has the experience working on developmentally disabled issues, but a lot of those people are going to be very similar to the population that Ruthie does work with,” he said. “Because of the fact that she’s worked with state agencies on senior issues and grant programs, she’s the best we have.”
Speaker Michael Maslanka said his child has special needs and is involved heavily with Special Olympics Forsyth County.
Maslanka said housing is a big issue, particularly for adults with disabilities whose parents have passed away and among the local athletes, some lived in foster homes, with grandparents and parents who are aging.“I’m the parent of a special needs adult child with an IQ of less than 60, and I’m aging myself and my wife is older than I am,” he said. “When we die, we’ve done the best that we can to provide for her financially, but she will have no place to go. She’ll become a ward of the state wherever