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Automation Direct expansion gets yes from planning board
auto direct

NORTH FORSYTH -- A Forsyth County business is looking to expand in Cumming, and the county’s planning commission is open to its development.

At a public hearing Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to send Automation Direct’s rezoning application for a proposed warehouse on Church Road, which is just west of Ga. 400 between Settingdown and Hopewell roads, to the Board of Commissioners with a recommendation of approval.

AutomationDirect.com Inc. requested to rezone 20 acres from single family residential Res-3 district and single family residential Res-4 district to a restricted industrial district, or M1, for the 280,000-square-foot warehouse and additional office space totaling just more than 6,500 square feet with 93 parking spaces and an open storage yard.

Although the board voted in favor of the application, the county’s planning and community development staff was not supportive, writing,

“The suburban living character area is primarily for residential land uses with some compatible secondary land uses. The intensity of the office and warehouse proposal is too intense for this location.”

Many at the public hearing supported the application.

President and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce James McCoy cited the company’s growth potential and reliability.

“Automation Direct is just shy of Northside Hospital in terms of growth in this community,” he said. “They continue to be one of the fastest-growing [businesses] in the state and certainly in Forsyth County. They’ve been a great corporate citizen, and through my 12 years here, with the number of times they have expanded and grown, they have never once asked this community for assistance, for any sort of financial consideration.”

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills also spoke in favor of the application.

“I am not forecasting my vote in any way,” Mills said, “but if I had been asked, I would have done a commissioner-initiated zoning – a county-initiated zoning. I would love to change a lot of my Res-3’s and Res-4’s to industrial and not have to [build] houses that impact schools and impact roads.”

A county-initiated zoning is a proposal brought forth by a commissioner, usually at the request of a landowner. The process allows commissioners to fast track a request, cutting out all but the last step – a BOC meeting and vote – of the regular process.

Tim Hohmann, founder of Automation Direct, addressed concerns the planning board raised at a work session Aug. 23.

“We estimate that for the first couple years, the average truck traffic will be four trucks per day,” he said, “We’re a very efficient operation, so we do not have tons of truck traffic, and we do not have trucks that sit at our place and idle – very rarely does that happen. We have an air conditioned warehouse so truck drivers can come in for refreshments.”

Hohmann also added the trucks would not be entering and leaving early in the morning or late at night when neighbors are sleeping, a reservation aired by District 5 board member Robert Hoyt.

Automation Direct’s attorney, Emory Lipscomb, said the company would agree to requiring trucks to only turn left out of the property instead of making a right and passing residences on Church Road.

The location is about a quarter-mile from Ga. 400, he said.

At the planning board’s work session the previous week, District 4 board member Bettina Hammond suggested a 25-foot landscaping strip to hide any tractor trailer staging set up toward the front of the property that would be visible from the road – a condition that she added to the recommendation Tuesday.

The planning board’s vote does not determine the outcome of the application; rather, it serves as a recommendation for the Board of Commissioners, which is scheduled to make a decision at a Sept. 15 meeting.