Forsyth County’s issues with a potential new city in south Forsyth County were once again a topic of discussion this week.
At a work session Tuesday, Forsyth County commissioners voted unanimously to send a resolution to members of the local delegation requesting all properties located within a proposed community improvement district in south Forsyth be removed from the area of the proposed city of Sharon Springs.
Tony Peters with the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce said the organization had led the charge to create the district — which would pay additional taxes but have a say in how that money was spent — for the last year and a half.
Peters said there were 469 commercial property owners in the district and that a portion of properties in the proposed district are in the Sharon Springs area.
“I am already nervous that only five days into this when I go and follow-up with a prospect that we have introduced the CID to, the minute they get wind of this topic, it changes the trajectory of the potential discussion of signing the document to be taxed by the CID knowing that they might someday be taxed by a city,” he said.
He said 50 percent plus one of the owners would need to approve the district for it to become a reality.
Peters brought along representatives of three business who said they were unaware they were not in the proposed city.
“I felt completely blindsided when I heard about this last night,” said Alison Sparrow with Convergent Media Systems and Digital Ignition at the meeting. “Not being able to voice, not being able to vote, not being able to know about this, it is really just being under-represented, and I’m clearly a little flabbergasted, a little surprised, a little shocked by it.”
Sparrow said Digital Ignition recruited companies to the area from north Fulton and having an Alpharetta address meant more in the industry than a Sharon Springs address.
Last week, House Bill 626, which provides the process for creating Sharon Springs, passed the governmental affairs subcommittee and a committee.
According to a social media post from the Georgia House of Representatives, the bill passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 159-3. Additional details were not available as of press time.
During the subcommittee meeting, the western boundary of the city was clarified as McFarland Road south of the intersection with Ga. 400. Land west of McFarland is not included in the proposed city.
The change to the map caused issues for Forsyth County.
Officials with the county said the change to the map would affect a financial impact study done by Georgia State University, which the county received this week.
“Since we provided that map to Georgia State, we have had a series of events that have now led us to a map from a geographic perspective that is different than what we had provided to Georgia State,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard. “Therefore, what I can tell you is the data and the findings of this are going to be impacted by that.”
Officials said there was a difference of about 700 acres in the maps and most of the property was commercial.
County Chief Information Officer Brandon Kenney said the county “felt comfortable” using the map for the study based on previous discussions and studies. Kenney said he found out about the change to the bill last week.
“What I can tell you is it is a very complex process based on the way that the legislation is drafted,” he said.
He said changing of voting districts also impacted the map.
Under a previous bill to create Sharon Springs in 2015, the district was not included. There was some disagreement about why the change was made.
“From my perspective, it’s difficult to think it was anything but intentional because the boundaries were changed from one bill filed by one legislator to a subsequent bill filed by another legislator, who subsequently went back to the original legislator’s boundaries for the purpose of public discussion,” said County Manager Eric Johnson.
District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson said the county should be more focused on fixing the issue than worrying about who is to blame.
“Clearly, a change was made and we don’t want that change to be included. We have to figure out how that will be addressed,” she said. “I’m a little disturbed that we seem to be going down this road of trying to point to some source of nefarious behavior or someone’s attempt to do a grab.”
Commissioners also brought up conversations they had previously had with members of the delegation looking to take other avenues for dealing with concerns in the area of the proposed city.
Among the topics were expanding the number of commissioners, creating an organization to deal with zonings in the area whose recommendation could only be defeated by a four-fifths vote, the area having its own distinction without being a city — similar to Buckhead — and other options.
Some of the options were similar to those discussed by commissioners but ultimately never sent in 2015.
County officials are also planning to host a meeting to discuss issues surrounding Sharon Springs. The meeting will be held at the Forsyth Conference Center at Lanier Technical College at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27.
In October, a 12-member committee made up of representatives from across the county recommended allowing voters living in the area of the proposed city to vote on cityhood.
Only voters in the area of the proposed city will be able to vote, and the committee recommended the referendum must have the support of 57.5 percent — a compromise between a simple majority and two-thirds majority — of voters.
Before reaching voters, the bill will need to be approved by the Georgia General Assembly and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal. If passed, a referendum would be held in May.
The approximate boundaries of the proposed city are east of Ga. 400 except the portion west of McFarland Road, south of Hwy. 20 except for areas in the city of Cumming, west of the Chattahoochee River — already a boundary with Gwinnett County — and north of the Fulton County line.