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BOC: Neighborhood's right-of-way issue postponed, smoking ban in parks approved

New rules in the county and impact fees were among items discussed this week at the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting.

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

Parc at Creekstone

A request from a south Forsyth HOA that is controversial among neighbors could have commissioners looking at county-wide rules.

Commissioners voted 4-0, with District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent temporarily absent, to postpone a decision until Thursday, Sept. 5 as to whether the county should abandon public right-of-way for Terrace Lane and Manor View within the Parc at Creekstone subdivision.

“If the county decides to abandon, that is not the act of getting rid of the property. That is the act of designating that this property no longer serves a county right-of-way purpose,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard. “If that happens, then it is stripped of its right-of-way use, and then we will follow the property disposition laws in the state of Georgia to then, in fact, give up the property to the correct owners.”

During a required public hearing, several neighbors spoke against the proposal and there were no speakers in favor.

Those in opposition said the vote to ask the county to abandon the right-of-way had been approved by members by just over 50 percent — rather than a two-thirds majority — in April 2018 and that there had been changes in board membership since the vote.

If the county voted to abandon the land, it would mean the neighborhood could put up a front gate, which speakers said was the reason for support, but would be responsible for maintaining the roads. 

“The amount of money that we have [as an HOA] right now is barely enough to survive to the end of the year, so we do not have enough money in the reserves,” said resident Pankaj Rajankar. “Taking a liability like this, what’s bound to happen in the future is we will not be able to maintain the roads by the county standards, and what is going to happen is the property value of my house is going to go down because of that or someone is going to get hurt.”

Commissioners said they would look into whether to make stronger standards for abandoning right-of-way such as requiring HOAs to disclose reserve funds or requiring higher percentages of support from neighborhoods based on size.

A big impact

During the meeting, commissioners held a public hearing for the 2018 impact fee capital element update and to send the update to the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

Impact fees are charges for new development that help cover the cost of increased demand on infrastructure, services and amenities. Forsyth County currently collects impact fees for parks, libraries, roads and emergency services.

The report gave the following figures for 2018:

Impact fees collected

-Total – $10,815,388

-Roads – $5,258,654

-Parks and recreation – $3,142,385

-Public safety – $1,856,919

-Library – $394,809

-Administration – $162,571

Impact fee expenditures

-Total – $3,101,277

-Public safety – $1,862,111, which included the purchases of land for Fire Station 11 and a fire training complex

-Library – $852,149, which included the purchase of land for a library in southwest Forsyth

-Roads – $231,255

-Administration – $140,762

-Parks and recreation – $15,000

-E-911 – $0

Impact fee fund balance

-Total – $19,648985

-Roads – $10,156,786

-Parks and recreation – $7,036,711

-Public safety – $1,398,449

-Library – $800,139

-E-911 – $142,209

-Administration – $114,691

New rules

Commissioners officially adopted a variety of new rules in the county for alcohol, tobacco use at parks, and insurance for those who die in the line of duty.

The new alcohol rules would clarify the definition of micro-distilleries, removing rules that would not allow alcohol sales to factor into businesses’ leases, to remove fencing requirements for businesses with patios, doing away with rules that businesses must open with six months of getting their alcohol permit and allowing business to sell alcohol as part of an incentive package offered and approved by commissioners in areas it would not usually be allowed.

For tobacco, commissioners approved changes to a new rule prohibiting all use — including smoking, vaping and smokeless tobacco — from county parks. The prohibition will also include tobacco use inside cars on the property.

Commissioners also authorized the county to pay for the insurance of the spouse of an employee who dies in the line of duty three years after the employee’s death.

The proposal was first floated for only members of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office following the death of Deputy Spencer Englett during a training exercise in Pickens County in April. Commissioners decided to extend the policy to any county employee who dies in the line of duty.

UNG study

A partnership between Forsyth County and a program at the University of North Georgia will take a look at future uses of the historic Matt School building at 5710 Namon Wallace Road, which the county purchased earlier this year for about $400,000.

Jarrard said the agreement between Forsyth County and the Board of Regents would not have a cost to the county, would allow certain classes to do assessments of the area of the school and provide information to the county and said action was needed as “the semester is about to begin.”

The class will bring back their findings at a meeting in December.

“It’s graduate students, but they’re hoping it will also be some students from this area,” District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said.

Jarrard said the study will be the school’s intellectual property but the county will have access to it.