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Coal Mountain moratorium in north Forsyth extended
Overlay committee holds first meetings
coal mountain WEB

A moratorium in north Forsyth will continue for about two more months while a new committee works to create a proposed overlay for commercial land use in the area.

At a recent meeting, Forsyth County commissioners unanimously approved extending a hold on the acceptance of land disturbance permits for most commercial zonings to March 20.

The moratorium will end either on March 20, when the Coal Mountain Overlay is approved or by action of commissioners, who can also decide to extend it.

Originally adopted on Dec. 20 for 30 days, the moratorium affects portions of Districts 1, 4 and 5.

If a portion of a property falls into the moratorium area, the entire property will be under the moratorium. The commercial portion of master planned district, or MPD, zonings will be subject to the moratorium.

The moratorium only applies to properties under the county’s unified development code chapter 12, which are commercial and office districts.

Industrial zonings are not in that part of the code and will not be affected.

The area of the moratorium is diamond-shaped with four points.

The original boundaries of the moratorium were the intersections of: Matt Highway (Hwy. 369 west) and Bannister Road to the west; Keith Bridge Road (Hwy. 306 east) and Dahlonega Highway (Hwy. 9) to the south; Browns Bridge Road (Hwy. 369 east) at Six Mile Creek to the east; and Hopewell Road and Hwy. 9 to the north.

Parcels at the intersection of Elmo Road, Matt Hwy. and Bannister Road were added at a Jan. 10 work session.

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“Identity within the context of the area”

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A new group has also begun the first steps toward a proposed overlay for north Forsyth.

The Coal Mountain Overlay Committee has held two meetings on what should go in the area. The group is made up of both residents and developers from north Forsyth.

“We’ll set the parameters,” District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said. “Nobody has predetermined anything. I’ve had people say, ‘Cindy, what do you want this to look like?’ And I’m with the committee; I don’t have anything predetermined.”

Director of Planning and Zoning Tom Brown said the county has about half a dozen overlays in the county.

“Overlays are a chance for the county to identify a particular geographic area and essentially come up with a new rule book for how property is developed in that area,” he said. “It’s a very flexible tool for commissioners to fine-tune their zoning ordinance and for a big county like us … it’s hard to have a set of rules that applies from the northern tip to the southern tip.”

It is likely that most development in the area will be commercial, and the overlay will likely focus on those zonings.

The committee discussed options for placing monuments or preserving historical structures, having different standards for each intersection with Hwy. 369 and working toward rules for more muted colors, such as earth tones, for national companies.

“You could create some identity within the context of the area with some corner monument that has some sort of significance to the history,” said member Alan Neal.

Charlie Heard, a shopping center developer on the committee, said the overlay should also not be too broad.

“What’s maddening sometimes is there’s objective criteria that’s in the ordinance and you meet it,” he said, “then you go to the board and some of the times they’ll say, ‘I don’t really care what’s in the ordinance, here’s what I want you to do.’”

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What’s next?

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During the group’s second meeting, the discussion centered on design standards for businesses in the overlay area.

Members also looked at the proposed character areas of the county’s update to its comprehensive plan, or Foster Forsyth.

“As we move forward, as we find what we want to accomplish as a committee, having some ties to this concept and being somewhat consistent with it is going to make a lot of sense,” Brown said.

Also in the second meeting, exercises allowed members to review and give their reaction to several packets of good and bad examples of what should go in the area and looking at building standards in nearby Crabapple.

A separate design review board was also discussed in the meeting, and Brown said it would take about a year for the group to be up and running, if approved.

The committee was recently approved by commissioners with members: Neal, Heard, Seth Thomas, David McBrayer, Christine Becnel, Candy Hammond, Steve Holder, Robbie Caesar, Ryan Kerosec and Paul Hamby. Caesar and Kerosec will alternate and share a single vote.

Brown, District 4 planning board member Bettina Hammond, Developer Candice Harp and Commission Chairman Todd Levent, of District 3, have also been present at meetings.

The committee is planned to meet four more times.

After going through the committee, public hearings will be held before the county’s planning board and commissioners. The overlay can be adopted after the hearings.