Issues surrounding the annexation of about 150 acres at the intersection of Turner Road and Market Place Boulevard have been settled, though Forsyth County Commissioners expressed frustrations with the process.
On Wednesday morning, legal representation for Forsyth County, the city of Cumming and Atlantic Realty Partners, the developer of a planned mixed-use project on the site, came to an agreement for the annexation, which commissioners had previously objected to, during a meeting with an arbitration panel from the state.
The annexation request has plans for a mixed-use development called Westshore with 322,000 square feet of commercial space, 348 rental units, 20 single-family units and 130 townhomes.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the agreement with the developer would include that 120 units of senior living units planned for the development be used for assisted living and paying the county $200,000 “to offset our impact fees loss.”
The property is planned to be rezoned by city leaders to planned urban development district (PUD) to the west of Market Place and highway business district (HB) district to the east.
When properties are annexed into the city, they must hold a similar zoning to the one the property had in the county for at least a year.
Commissioners previously objected to the annexation because the city’s PUD zoning allows more density – 10 units per acre instead of six – than the county’s master-planned district (MPD) zoning, the HB zoning does not match the county’s zoning for the area and concerns with issues of collecting impact fees and infrastructure.
That request was ultimately withdrawn amid several issues, including that certain lots of the proposal had only requested the portion west of Market Place to be annexed, meaning the original request was only for 57 acres instead of the entire 151.
The current annexation request includes the total areas of all the parcels.
Before that meeting, commissioners met earlier on Wednesday morning to discuss the proposal and the annexation process, which commissioners said favored cities over counties.
“I appreciate all the work and effort [Jarrard and District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper] have put into this, but I think the message that people have to understand is state law favors the person annexing and from a county perspective, it gives you no leg to stand on whatsoever,” said District 4 Commissioner Cindy Mills.
One of the issues for the county was the loss of impact fees, fees paid by developers to the county to offset the use of certain county amenities and services. While the county will receive $200,000 from the developer, Jarrard said it did not come close to making up the shortfall.
“If you look at the totality of the impact fees, we’re out well more than a million dollars, that’s just the reality of it,” he said.
Those funds, county officials said, would likely go toward a new fire apparatus to meet the needs of the development, which Jarrard said would cost $400,000-$500,000, but would not have a major impact on issues with Turner Road.
“If you’ve driven Turner Road, you know it is a narrow and winding road, and utilization of that road is about to increase dramatically,” Cooper said.
Jarrard said annexations are also tricky for counties because any conditions they potentially put on land as part of annexation can be undone a year later.
“It’s challenging, and it’s very challenging if you have a property owner that doesn’t have immediate buildout and can wait because then we can take all the vigorous action we want to take and they can simply say, ‘Fine, impose them, then we’ll wait,’” Jarrard said.