Also during its meeting Thursday, the Forsyth County commission:
• Heard an appeal of a Zoning Board of Appeals decision for Carol Albert, a resident representing homeowners in Champions Run.
The neighbors seek to overturn approval of a consent order between the county and developer Rocklyn Homes allowing a 2004 decision for a 35-foot stream buffer along eight lots to stand, rather than requiring the current 50-foot requirement.
The commission plans to announce a decision Dec. 20.
• Approved a rezoning for Greenberg Farrow from neighborhood shopping to commercial business district to allow for a restaurant with a drive-through.
The developer plans to remodel the former Blockbuster Video on Buford Highway to be opened as a Panera Bread restaurant.
• Granted a rezoning from agricultural to residential-3 for NEDA Investments for the development of 50 homes on Aaron Sosebee Road.
Note: All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.
— Alyssa LaRenzie
The Forsyth County commission has downgraded the scope of a road project first approved by voters in 2003.
The Castleberry Road project on Thursday officially became a plan for improvement with sidewalks and turn lanes instead of the four-lane widening in the works for years.
The commission voted 5-0 on the matter, which included the caveat that a traffic study by an independent engineer will be completed, and the data will be made available and considered during a public hearing.
At that time, the commission could reconsider its change in plans to keep the road two lanes.
Commissioner Todd Levent, who represents the district in which much of the project falls, has pushed for months for the commission to consider residents’ requests to make only safety improvements without a lane widening.
“Based upon traffic studies and technical information that I have reviewed,” Levent said, “I do not believe the existing and projected traffic volumes on Castleberry Road justify the expense and the impact of a four-lane Castleberry Road.”
The issue was complicated because voter approval of the project came with public announcement of plans to widen the road and costs already expended by the county to acquire right of way.
The special purpose local option sales tax referendum, or SPLOST, listed Castleberry Road as one of the transportation projects that the revenue would fund in the fifth round of the tax.
It has since rolled over to the sixth round and the seventh round, which passed last year.
The most recent sales tax referendum included $9.4 million for the project, with the funding split between the top and lower priority categories.
The project has been carried over due to the economic downturn, which has hampered tax collections, and the county granting residents’ requests to lower its priority.
The state law prevents the county from abandoning the project, since it doesn’t meet the specific requirements to do so, Levent said.
“However, the law is also clear that a local government has the discretion to make adjustments in plans for advertised SPLOST projects based upon new data,” he said.
The county has spent nearly $9 million on the design and right-of-way acquisition for the project from previous sales tax collections.
Levent included in his motion Thursday that once funds become available in the next round of the sales tax, the county will have plans for a two-lane road drawn.
The new design will straighten the road, enhance turn lanes and add traffic signals where necessary.
The commission vote also required an 8-foot sidewalk, landscaping and crosswalks be included in the plan.
Most of the residents living along the road called for the commissioners to vote in favor of the modifications at the start of Thursday’s meeting.
Brad Jameson shared how when he turned out of his subdivision earlier that evening onto Castleberry Road, he had to wait for two cars to pass — an anomaly.
“The traffic is just simply not there as was anticipated,” Jameson said. “The $9 million or so that’s been planned to improve Castleberry could well be spent in other ways.”