The Forsyth County commission has given a developer the go-ahead to begin work on a massive retirement village in south Forsyth.
The Atlanta Campus of Erickson Retirement Communities is scheduled for 88 acres at McGinnis Ferry and Bethany Bends roads.
The community would have 2 million square feet of space, including 1,500 independent living units, 150 assisted living units and 100 skilled care units. Residents would have to be at least 62 years old.
The commission's decision Thursday came despite opposition from other retirement community developers.
Winston Porter of Medical Development Corps said the project could mean "devastation for existing nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the county."
But John Gaskin, who is the vice president of Patrick Malloy Communities, said the proposed retirement project would be "very appropriate for the area."
His company owns 39 acres next to the community that are planned for residential development.
"This will add to the tax base without stressing the infrastructure in that area," Gaskin said. "We think it's an asset to Forsyth County."
Anthony Grieco disagreed.
"With the magnitude of this retirement community, existing providers may be put out of business," he said. "It is 15 times the size of the living facilities we have been approved for."
Grieco works with Health Management Accounting Services, which recently got approval to build a retirement community on Old Atlanta Road.
Commissioner Jim Harrell, in whose district the project falls, said he recognized why businesses would not want to compete with Erickson Retirement Communities.
Still, he said, "I just don't think it's the job of government to decide how many or what kinds of business you're supposed to have."
To meet the developer's requirements, Harrell made a motion to rezone two parcels of land on the property from residential to multiple planned district and a major amendment to a master planned district, which has less stringent specifications for buildings.
Erickson project manager Mark Hunter said the development would bring in 1,000 full-time jobs with an annual payroll of about $20 million and about 300 construction jobs.
The center is expected to employ on-site doctors, nurses, cooks, designers, accountants and other professionals.
Hunter said the project calls for two independent living neighborhoods served by two community buildings. He said amenities would include hair salons, crafts rooms, pharmacies, restaurants, banks and health clubs.
Erickson is in the process of building 22 other facilities similar to this one across the country.
Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse said the next step is for Erickson to get the necessary construction permits before breaking ground.