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Committee steers toward short term
District possible for car dealerships
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Forsyth County News

Community planners switched their focus from long- to short-term goals during a Wednesday meeting of the Forsyth County steering committee.

The committee, which provides feedback on the county’s comprehensive plan update process, organized projects for a short-term work program, which focuses on the first five years of the plan’s two decades.

Vanessa Bernstein, the county’s senior long-range planner, said staff can dedicate about 3,200 hours each year to work on comprehensive plan projects.

With limited staff, and half those hours reserved for county commission requests, the steering committee took on the task of prioritizing the coveted time.

"Hard decisions have to be made in terms of what comes first," Bernstein said. "All of these things are important."

The plan begins in 2012, when Bernstein noted much time likely will go toward planning for water supply needs, since the county’s contract with Cumming expires in June.

The committee filled in the remaining time for that year with reviewing residential zoning code requirements, property maintenance standards and early research on the possibilities for a car dealership district.

Though originally targeted for 2014, the committee moved up consideration of a car dealership district in response to developer interest.

Projects the committee scheduled to research in 2013 included: a density bonus to encourage multi-family housing; incentives for developing affordable or work force housing; and review of performance standards and uses for non-residential properties.

By bumping up some of the development issues, committee member Pam Livesay noticed that farmland protection measures were knocked to the end of the five-year plan.

"Will there be any left?" Livesay said.

The committee ensured that agricultural components were worked into other projects, such as encouraging community gardens or green space.

"We know there are issues with our code in terms of development, so we front-loaded those," Bernstein explained, adding that green space plans are in place through the parks department.

She also said that housing concerns had been more widespread in terms of public participation.

Interim principal planner Sharon Farrell said a built-in "cushion" exists, due to the ability of commissioners to initiate projects included in the scheduling.

The comprehensive plan draft will soon head to the commission and back to the public for review before the first public hearing is held this fall.

The plan is required to be adopted and sent to the state by October 2012.