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4 zoning issues from this week’s BOC meeting
Forsyth County

Zoning and land-use issues were big topics at this week’s board of commissioners work session, where topics such as city annexation, a long-held piece of county property and the annexation of about 150 acres into the city of Cumming were discussed.

All items were approved by a 5-0 vote unless otherwise noted.

For sale by owner

About 33 acres off Veterans Memorial Boulevard in downtown Cumming once considered as a location for the Forsyth County Jail could soon be up for sale.

At the meeting, commissioners approved moving ahead with the public sale process for the property and gave county officials the authority to have the property appraised.

The county bought the land for $7 million in July 2007 as a possible home for a new jail and the sheriff’s office headquarters. Voters rejected a bond referendum in 2008 that would have funded the projects.

A previous study done by the county found that about 26 acres is useable land and that a stream runs through the property.

The property had been considered for a county government use, but County Manager Eric Johnson said a study of the property showed that would be difficult for that to become a reality.

Westshore returns

Annexations of county land into the city of Cumming have been a sore sport between the two municipalities in recent months, and a large, previously withdrawn request has come back.

At the meeting, commissioners discussed but took no action on the proposed annexation of 151 acres for the proposed Westshore development on Marketplace Boulevard and Turner Road.

The request was previously objected to by commissioners and ultimately withdrawn amid several issues, including that certain lots of the proposal had only requested the portion west of Marketplace to be annexed, meaning the original request was only for 57 acres instead of the entire 151.

“They have remedied that now by annexing not just to the west of the road, they’re going ahead and crossing the road as well to capture the entirety of the land lot,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

Plans for the area include a mixed-use development with 322,000 square feet of commercial space, 348 rental units, 20 single-family units and 130 townhomes.

No action was taken at the meeting, and Jarrard said he wanted to present to commissioners ahead of their next work session on Aug. 6.

Bracing for impact

Another issue between the two local governments has been the collection of county impact fees within the city.

“When we talk about infrastructure, we pay for infrastructure with a different mix of revenue that we do for day-to-day operation, so when it comes to building fire stations, that’s overwhelming being paid for with SPLOST money and impact fees,” Johnson said.

Along with fire stations, county impact fees – charges for new development that help cover the cost of increased demand on infrastructure, services and amenities – are collected by the county for parks, libraries, roads and other emergency services.

Recently, county leaders have taken a renewed interest in either having the city collect county impact fees within the city limits or to compensate the county.

Johnson said he wasn’t sure if the county had ever requested the fees from the city in the past but felt the impact on the county was increasing amid annexations by the city.

He said the county is particularly interested in impact fees for departments the city does not have, such as libraries, the fire department and emergency communication towers.

“We’ve historically not really put the kind of investment into the Cumming library that we put into the other libraries because the city doesn’t contribute to that,” Johnson said. “More people in the city generates more demand for the library.”

Johnson noted that the county’s service delivery strategy is old enough to reference the volunteer fire department, which has been a paid department since 1998.

Connecting north Forsyth

After years of discussion, commissioners approved a new plan that will eventually connect the Etowah River to Lake Lanier via a subarea trail.

The plan would connect Matt Community, Six Mile, Central, Coal Mountain, Poole’s Mill, Eagle’s Beak and Charleston parks and the Sawnee Mountain Preserve, which would serve as trailheads, using Hwy. 369 as a “spine.”

The trail will total about 35 miles and will cost about $89 million for construction which will be completed in four phases.

“While that in and of itself is a significant undertaking, what is super interesting and what the great potential is for this is that it ties into many of the other trails that you already have planned in the central and southern portions of the county,” said Eric Bosman, with Kimley Horn, the firm hired to perform the study.

Trail types include side paths along roadways and a wider greenway.

Potential funding sources for the trail include SPLOST, bond, solid waste and parks and recreation impact fees, along with state and federal options.

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said the trails would hopefully connect with future zonings in the area.

“What we’ve been hopeful for and where I’ve been trying to push this is to is that we get a plan in place and get these options in place, and then, as these zonings come in, we get the developer to pay for some of the trails,” she said.