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Commissioners voice concerns with proposed annexation of county land into the city
County manager says city should collect impact fees for libraries, fire service
FCN Forsyth County Administration Building

There has been no love lost between Forsyth County and the city of Cumming in recent weeks, as the two local governments have butted heads over annexation of county land into the city, and last week, city council members voted to reject an agreement between the two over road maintenance. 

The wedge between the two popped up again on Tuesday, as commissioners voted 5-0 to voice concerns with the proposed annexation of about 125 acres on Pilgrim Road, Dr. Dunn Road and Hwy. 9 and discussed the collection of county impact fees within the city.

Under state rules, properties up for annexation must abut land already in a city and all parcels in the request, even if they have different owners, are considered one parcel through the process.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said it was his understanding that a smaller parcel on Hwy. 9, which would connect larger tracts on both sides of the roadway, had removed its request. 

“That the property owner, with respect to the small parcel at the intersection of [Hwy.] 9 and Dr. Dunn Drive, my understanding is they have withdrawn their authorization for annexation, and presumably, unless there is another method of annexation that is attempted, that should end the request for annexation across Hwy. 9 and into the larger parcels on 9,” Jarrard said. 

Jarrard said the county would oppose the annexation on three points: the overall package had changed, anything across Hwy. 9 should not be included and the county believed a landowner was asking for an annexation to get around county standards.

Commissioners also raised objections with the recent approval of a new city zoning category: annexed property or AP.

A property annexed into the city is required to have a zoning that matches its county zoning for at least a year before being rezoned by city officials.

The AP zoning means the property would have a similar zoning to the county for up to 18 months, and any taking longer would automatically be rezoned to residential use R-1.

“My estimation is that the reason that this has been adopted is either to lessen the impact of the property being zoned into the city or to make a strong argument that the county can’t object on a land-use basis, because how can we object when it’s coming into the city in the same zoning designation that it had in the county,” Jarrard said. 

While city officials at a meeting earlier this month said the zoning would cut costs for both the city and county, avoid wasting “local and state resources” and create “more thorough and deliberate planning for land use” in the city, county commissioners said on Tuesday the zoning category signaled the city intended to change the use of zoned properties. 

“That’s just ridiculous,” said Laura Semanson, representative for District 5 and chairwoman of the BOC. “That’s redundant. There’s no meaning to that … it absolutely signals that they want to change it.”

The annexation process has been a sore spot between the two governments after a rash of annexation requests in the last two years.

Critics of the city’s zoning and annexations process have claimed it is too lenient, while others criticized the county’s zoning process as too stringent.

The county’s issues with the city didn’t stop with annexation and continued later in the meeting during a discussion on impact fees, charges for new development that help cover the cost of increased demand on infrastructure, services and amenities.

Forsyth currently collects impact fees for parks, libraries, roads and emergency services.

County Manager Eric Johnson said the city collects fees for roads, parks and public safety but did not contribute for libraries, which he said he felt should be the case since one library is in the city, and county-wide fire service. 

“An issue that has come up more than once is the whole idea that we would have county-wide programs for public safety, which includes our radio towers as well as our fire department, and we have a county-wide library system, but the city has not participated in the collection of impact fees related to either of those types of infrastructure,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the county should also look at how much city residents are using county-funded resources and could look retroactively at what is owed “based on their lack of collecting our fees.”

“One is they can collect our fees when they issue permits, and they can turn the revenue over to us. It can be calculated based on what’s being built,” Johnson said. “Another approach would be the city chooses not to deliver your impact fees, they can cut us a check and they can make an annual contribution to the county on behalf of what they choose not to collect.”

Officials will bring back information gathered from county departments at an upcoming work session.