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Board revisits deal for massive development
Fate of new road holds up decision
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Forsyth County News

Other action

Also at Tuesday's work session, the Forsyth County commission:

* Approved the conceptual master plans for four green space properties, including Buice, Harrison, McClure and Echols. It also gave the OK for firm Mactec to begin securing construction documents so the county can review the potential costs of developing the properties.

* Instituted a policy requiring quarterly financial requirements for nonprofits receiving county social services grants.

* Accepted a grant for $11,103 to buy a Bulls Eye Fire Extinguisher Mobile Trainer, which will help teach residents how to use fire extinguishers. No county match was required.

* Opened bidding for proposals to build a new Fire Station 4 in the Ducktown community, not to exceed $1.8 million. Funding would come from 1-cent sales tax money and impact fees, which are paid by developers.

* Added 12 firms, which had submitted proposals, to a county-approved list of service providers to conduct as-needed real estate appraisals.

* Reviewed but postponed a vote on the county's comprehensive transportation plan so they could have more time to look over the information.

Note: All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.

-- Alyssa LaRenzie

A large mixed-use development planned for south Forsyth sparked a lengthy discussion among county commissioners Tuesday.

Developer Taubman Centers Inc. penned a deal with the county in 2008 for a regional mall, office space, hotels and residential units on 164 acres between Union Hill and McFarland roads.

Taubman returned to the county earlier this year, seeking amendments to the contract that would, among other measures, push back the latest possible opening date from December 2015 to 2020.

“The 2008 agreement was ambitious in scope,” County Attorney Ken Jarrard told commissioners during their work session.

“What this really does is attempt to extend the contract and development agreement further to allow the market to get better such that [the] product can actually be realized.”

The developers have not yet broken ground at the site.

The changes to the agreement have appeared on work session agendas since late February, but postponed each time until Tuesday.

Representatives from Taubman were not present at the session.

After more than 30 minutes of discussion Tuesday, commissioners voted 4-1, with Patrick Bell opposed, to postpone a decision on the contract amendments until the May 11 work session.

The sticking point seemed to be responsibility for building Nancy Reagan Drive, a road planned in conjunction with the development.

Taubman may sell a portion of its property, which if completed by the end of 2011 would set up some additional terms in its agreement with the county.

Construction of the road is one issue contingent upon the property sale.

In the event the transaction is made by year’s end, Taubman would promise the contract would include a requirement for the third party to build the road no later than early 2014.

If the sale is not made, Forsyth County would build the road with right of way and plans donated by Taubman.

The county could also decide to go ahead with the road construction at any time. However, Bell said a “trigger” should be added to the contract, allowing the county to build the road even if the property is sold.

The county, true to its original agreement, built the southern part of Ronald Reagan Boulevard, which would eventually serve the development.

Nancy Reagan Drive would connect to another private road planned by an adjacent landowner, whom Bell said received a commitment the drive would be built in a timely manner.

Bell suggested that Taubman donate the right of way and allow the county to build a public road.

“The amendment of the development agreement is not to the benefit of the taxpayers in this county,” Bell said during the discussion. "It’s to [Taubman’s] benefit, because the economy is slow and it allows them to catch their breath.”

As some added benefits, he cited Taubman’s ability to profit on the sewer tap fees and to delay construction.

The development secured a number of incentives, including lower sewer tap fees, as part of the original agreement.

Per the amendment, if the property is sold, Taubman would agree to buy an additional 60,000 gallons of sewer capacity at the discounted rate to then sell to the other party at a potentially higher rate to generate cash flow, Jarrard explained.

Each incentive is documented by a letter of credit, which would be reimbursed if Taubman pulled the project, he said.

Jarrard said the incentives were granted due to the jobs created and “potentially phenomenal” increase in the sales tax base.