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5 things from this week’s BOC work session
Forsyth County

A new ride services for those with disabilities and other county residents, a new permitting system for food trucks and roadside stands and the latest in efforts to widen a south Forsyth road were among issues raised at a Forsyth County Board of Commissioners work session on Tuesday.

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

Common Courtesy

After some discussion at previous meetings, commissioners approved a one-year pilot program contract with Common Courtesy, a service that connects the elderly and those with special needs with ride-sharing drivers.

“We’re very thankful we’re at the point now that if the board approves this contract, we’ll move ahead with setting up training and registration for ridership, and we’re anticipating and ready to move forward very quickly with board approval,” said Avery Gravitt, the county’s fleet service director.

The program dates back to 2006, which was more of a volunteer service that founders Bob and Anne Carr said was not as successful. Within the last four or five years, Uber came onto their radar, and the Carrs began to partner with the service.

In previous meetings, officials said rides can be ordered in about five minutes and riders have to register with the service, which includes information such as whether they need to transport a wheelchair, emergency contacts and other information.

Gravitt said the program is expected to be ready to go within two weeks of the approval but said the county would be looking at expediting the service “to meet the more immediate needs of some nonprofits” and others.

“We’re hoping to get some phone calls made for ridership within a week or so,” he said.

More information about the company is available at CommonCourtesyRides.org.

Annexation request heard

Annexations of land from Forsyth County into the city of Cumming has been a big issue over the last few months, though commissioners appeared to not have concerns with an annexation request tied to Northside Hospital Forsyth.

Commissioners did not object to an annexation request for 12 acres located on both sides of Ronald Reagan Boulevard.

“We’ve had a couple of these annexations near the hospital, and the typical rationale advanced by the annexing parties is they want anything hospital or medical-related, they want to have a common jurisdiction [with the hospital],” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

The proposed use of the property is two 100,000-square-foot multi-story office buildings with a medical or hospital use and a five-level parking deck. The build time is estimated to be four to five years.

Though one parcel of the annexation request is already in the city, the others are zoned agricultural district (A1) or commercial business district (CBD) and will have an institutional (INST) zoning in the city.

When properties are annexed into the city, they must hold similar zonings to the one the property had in the county for at least a year.

Temporary businesses

Both food trucks and roadside stands selling items such as fruit, Christmas trees or fireworks could soon have a new permitting process within the county.

“We’ve recently had some requests for some new, different types of temporary vendors and mobile sales in the county,” said Jerry Oberholtzer, with the county’s department of planning and community development.

Oberholtzer said temporary sales was “probably one of the oldest types of commercial businesses” in the county, though new uses, such as flower trucks and boutique clothing vendors, had become more popular recently.

Currently, such businesses have to submit applications to the county for temporary structures, such as tents, in parking lots and can only have short transactions of items that can easily be carried by customers.

For food trucks, the businesses must be permitted by the local health department and operate out of a base of operations under the legal control of the permit holder.

Oberholtzer said future changes to the code could mean more flexibility for the businesses and wanted to make sure any of the businesses would “add value to the community” and “uphold our commitment to a higher standard of living.”

No action was taken during the meeting, and the item will come back to commissioners at a future meeting.

 

McGinnis Ferry widening

After some back and forth in recent years over the widening of McGinnis Ferry Road, it appears Forsyth County and the cities of Johns Creek and Alpharetta could be working on a new deal.

While Forsyth County has long pushed for the project, County Manager Eric Johnson said the other parties do not have their full funding for the project. Commissioners approved allowing Johnson to work with leaders from the cities to find an agreement.

Under the county’s previous plan, Forsyth would pay $18 million for the project, the state would contribute about $10 million and Alpharetta and Johns Creek would contribute about $9 million each.

In a more recent proposal from Johns Creek, the project would be split into two parts, widening from Sergeant Road to 7 Oaks Parkway and widening from Sargent Road to Meadows Creek Drive.

The Sargent to 7 Oaks phase would be about 0.7 miles and would cost $95,000 for design $1.5 million for right of way acquisitions, $120,000 for relocation of utilities, $1.5 million for mitigation and construction of $1.85 million for an estimated total of $5.1 million.

In comparison, the phase from Sargent to Meadows Creek would be about 0.5 miles and cost $68,000 for design, $1 million for right of way, $100,000 for utilities, $1.5 million for mitigation and $700,000 for construction, with a total of $3.4 million.

Political questions

Consolidation of the city of Cumming and Forsyth County, whether to elect county commissioners by district or county-wide and whether to elect the commission chairman at-large across the county – all contentious issues locally – may be among questions asked to Republican and Democratic voters in their respective primaries.

At the work session, commissioners discussed whether to formally request adding the questions to the primaries next year, but did not take action. As the primary questions are ultimately submitted by the parties, commissioners can only request what will be added.

Countywide voting versus district voting has been an issue in Forsyth County for more than a decade. Prior to 2010, voting was done countywide for all commissioners. In the 2016 Republican primary, voters said they were in favor of district voting, though during Tuesday’s meeting some commissioners voiced issues with working on the ballot at that time.

During the 2016 debate about voting, requests to possibly add a countywide chair and increasing the board to six members was floated. The upcoming 2020 census is already expected to have an impact on the districts.

Consolidation of the city and county – thus making the government Cumming-Forsyth County, similar to Athens-Clarke County and Macon-Bibb County – has previously been pushed against by city leaders, with Mayor Troy Brumbalow calling a 2018 proposal as a “hostile takeover of the city of Cumming,” and Councilwoman Linda Ledbetter saying it was a “slap in the face.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners claimed the consolidation would save money for taxpayers, with District 3 Commissioners Todd Levent saying it would save “over $10 million a year.”

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said the county had never formally asked the parties to add the question and was concerned about the optics of commissioners adding questions.

“We get the perception [from the public] that we are ones doing it, that we’re putting it on the ballot,” she said. “I think there was wisdom to the way they did it before when the county commission did not get involved in it.”

Commissioners said they could speak to the parties as individuals about the questions, and no action was taken at the meeting.