According to county officials, a planned church may be conditionally required to connect to public sewer, which could be an expensive process.
During its Tuesday work session, the Forsyth County Planning Commission discussed the variance for on-site septic and a conditional-use permit for a school or day care requested by Living Faith Lutheran.
The church is seeking the variance and permit in conjunction with a sketch plat approval for a permanent location on Atlanta Highway near the intersection with Valley Circle Road, moving from its temporary place on Buford Dam Road.
County commissioners will have sole review and discretion of the sketch plat for the maximum 40,000-square-foot building, but the planning board will also review the conditional use permit and the variance during a hearing next Tuesday.
The county’s unified development code requires new developments to connect to public sewer at the builder’s own expense if it’s within 5,000 feet.
The 8-acre site for the church is about 400 feet from the nearest connection, but the pipe would need to bore under Atlanta Highway, which is “economically infeasible,” according to the application.
Chairwoman Pam Livesay expressed concern with granting the sewer variance to allow a septic tank for a school or day care.
She questioned whether the board could condition the variance to allow septic until the time the school or day care is built.
The school isn’t planned to be built “anytime soon,” said planning staff member Teressa Cox, but the church would like to go through the county’s process one time and obtain the permit for future needs.
Ethan Underwood, the attorney representing the church, said he would have to ask his client if a condition on the variance would be acceptable.
“From what I understand, the septic is going to be fine for the proposed 10,000-square-foot church, but at some point in the future, they’re wanting to do a day care or school,” Underwood said, summing up the board’s discussion. “The concern is that’s going to create a heavier effluent load that’s going to need to be treated by the sewer.”
Jim Kinsey, attending his first meeting as the newest planning board member, said in his six years or so on the Zoning Board of Appeals, he couldn’t recall a variance of this type not being granted.
However, Kinsey shared some concern with the proposed school being on septic.
“This would be the first one where I could see a load of sewage … when they get to that point,” he said.
The planning commission also reviewed an application by Dawn Fallite for a home occupation permit for a chiropractor’s office at the corner of Brookwood Road and Vaughn Drive.
The permit will be the first reviewed since rules were revised in the unified development code, and the applicant requested a variance to the number of vehicles and customers allowed.
Planning Commissioner Joe Moses questioned the precedent set granting a variance to the revised rules.
“My concern is the very first one we get is almost double what we talked about,” Moses said, referring the number of customers.
Planning director Tom Brown advised that the board consider what makes the situation of the application unique in determining whether to grant the variance.
Due to the UDC changes approved in April, the planning commission has final approval authority for home occupation permits.