Tempers flared between Forsyth County commissioners on Thursday during a discussion on postponing the next step to update the county’s comprehensive plan.
Prior to a unanimous vote to postpone to March 2 transmitting the update to the county’s 20-year comprehensive plan update, called Foster Forsyth, to the state for regional review, District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said the postponements were negatively impacting zonings in her district.
“We’ve engaged as many citizens as would come forward, and we waited for a new board to get in place to vote on this and for them to give input and to feel like it was their map,” Mills said. “Now, we have put off voting on it a few times.
“I’ve got several things that I need for staff and for my planning commissioner to move the new map forward because these zonings are hinging upon a new map.”
Though originally slated to be adopted in late 2016, the update to the county’s future land use plan was pushed back to allow new commissioners Laura Semanson, of District 5, and Rick Swope, of District 2, to give input once they took office in January.
Since April, consultants with Jacobs Engineering and Kimley-Horn and Associates have held a handful of meetings with residents and stakeholders, with nearly 1,000 coming to events and more than 4,800 responding to a community survey.
Mills said the standards in the new plan will mean better development for upcoming zonings than the current rules, and when she had asked why the board did not move forward, she was told members of the local homeowner’s coalition are not comfortable with the proposal and need to look at it.
“When I ask why we can’t vote on it, I keep being told, ‘Well ‘they’re’ not ready. ‘They’re’ not finished,” “I ask who is they and I keep being told, ‘Well, it’s the coalition,’” she said. “I resent that the coalition has more say than the people in my district.”
District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson fired back, saying it was more than the coalition who favored the postponement.
“I disagree with the characterization that it is simply groups of people from a coalition; I’ve been contacted by multiple people from regular constituents to people that are involved in coalition-associated groups to also our own economic development authority,” she said.
Semanson also said it wasn’t “ridiculous or irresponsible to ask for another two weeks for something that is going to impact us over the next 20 years.”
“When you hand someone something and they have not been able to put their own stamp on it and they have not had time to give the input, you are simply asking them to rubber stamp something that someone else did, so I would appreciate it if you quit pointing fingers at people who aren’t even in this room because it’s more than one or two people or some ‘conspiracy coalition.’”
Reached on Friday, Mills said there is no bad blood between her and Semanson and said they even hugged after the meeting. She said the issue was a difference of opinion.
“It’s just a matter of trying to represent your district the best you can,” she said.
Semanson did not have a comment as of press time.
Chairman Todd Levent, who made the original motion, said at the meeting there have not been any changes to the plan.
“No changes have been made that I’m aware of,” he said, “and there are different people now that are looking at it, and the bottom-line is your new Board of Commissioners that we postponed this for, they’re only asking for a little over 60 days while they’ve got the stream of the ship, and like you said, we’ve had over a year.”
A draft of the plan and other information can be found at Fosterforsyth.com.