Forsyth County residents once again had the chance to voice their thoughts on a 20-year county land use plan.
At a Forsyth County Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday, representatives with Foster Forsyth, the name of the update to the county’s comprehensive plan, discussed recent changes to the plan and allowed the community to make comments. No action was taken, and commissioners will discuss the plan at their next work session.
Since April, Foster Forsyth has held several meetings with community members, with nearly 1,000 coming to events and more than 4,800 responding to a community survey.
A final decision will not be made until next year, after the county’s two recently elected commissioners, Rick Swope in District 2 and Laura Semanson in District 5, take office.
A draft of the plan and other information can be found at Fosterforsyth.com.
One of the most visible changes in the update is splitting the county into 11 distinct areas, typically named after a community or landmark and regional, community and neighborhood nodes, or areas with specified zoning standards.
The character areas are McFarland, South Ga. 400, Big Creek, Haw Creek and Daves Creek, Lanier, Vickery Creek, Campground, North Ga. 400, Chestatee/Jot Em Down, Etowah and Sawnee Mountain.
Those areas have been refined throughout the process, and Eric Bosman of Kimley-Horn said some of those have continued to change.
“There are recommended changes to the boundaries of the character areas themselves, particularly in the north part of the county trading some of the areas between Etowah, North Ga. 400, Chestatee/Jot Em Down and Lanier,” he said. “Then in the south part of the county some alterations, particularly in the South Ga. 400, Haw Creek/Daves Creek area and again the Lanier character area.”
One of the most noticeable changes is moving properties close to or accessible from Buford Dam Road from Haws Creek and Daves Creek to Lanier.
Some nodes will also be changed, and a proposed Windermere node will be removed.
Zoning and population
During the presentation, officials also went through possible changes for zoning standards to maintain consistency, particularly master planned district, single-family community residential CR2, and single-family residential districts Res-3 and Res-4.
As those are denser categories, the community has largely been against them. Bosman said limiting those would alter the county’s future population.
“If all of these recommended changes are made, that population projection we think would need to be altered fairly significantly,” he said.
Amanda Hatton of Jacobs said the original population projection and one with the changes would mean a difference of more than 70,000 residents.
“Those [first] projections were based on if we were to continue down the same trajectory we’ve experienced the last few years and in terms of permitting,” she said. “That number puts us at a build out of 437,000 people in 2040 and roughly 419,000 at the end of the planning horizon in 2037.
“We re-calibrated developed a second set of projections based on the community character maps … that leaves us at a significantly lower population of 363,000 in 2037.”
During the evening’s public hearing, speakers were supportive of the plan, with many introducing themselves being as from their proposed character area.
“I believe by bringing the character areas into the process breaking them out into segmented areas, this allows for each area to take on a personality of their own,” resident Joanne Leach said.
Judy Hare, who lives in the Campground area, said she felt the plan will help some of the county’s biggest issues.
“I’d like to see the continuation of Res-2 development in the location, not Res3,” she said. “I believe the new plan with the lower density will help with traffic, overcrowded schools and other key factors.”