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Comprehensive plan will be aired Tuesday
Commissioners spar over map update
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Forsyth County News
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The town hall meeting to review the proposed update of Forsyth County's comprehensive plan is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the cafeteria of Liberty Middle School.

Commissioners are looking at a partial update of Forsyth County's comprehensive plan, a revision that will act as a bridge between the current plan and a full update.

At least one commissioner has concerns that a proposed map included in the partial update, marked "areas requiring special attention," will negatively affect business owners and residents of his district.

Another commissioner contends the map is nothing more than a temporary representation of the way things are.

The comprehensive plan serves as a guide for growth in the county.

At a Jan. 8 board of commissioners meeting, Chairman Charles Laughinghouse said Commissioner Patrick Bell's concern about the map's markings are "a total misunderstanding of what these maps do."

According to the map, about half of District 4 is considered an area where "the pace of development has or may outpace the availability of community facilities and services." The district includes much of northern Forsyth.

The board voted 5-0 to let the public, chiefly those residents in the 4th district, review the map during a town hall meeting set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in Liberty Middle School's cafeteria.

Bell suggested the meeting so that "folks can get a good look at this."

His interpretation of the map differed from Laughinghouse's.

"We do not need to scare the public, scare developers and scare business," Bell said. "I've had people contact me who are having trouble selling property because of this map."

Laughinghouse said it is not a case of the board scaring the community.

"There are people out in the community, a small number, who are scaring people into not coming to the area," he said.

The map, which is just one piece of the partial update puzzle, will next go to the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for review.

Following the town hall meeting and outside review, the board must adopt the map and other components of the partial update.

The full update of the comprehensive plan is due to the state by February 2012.

The partial update adoption deadline is June 30. To meet that mark, the board must send it to the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center no later than early February.

That gives the board just enough time to hear from residents at the town hall meeting.

At a Dec. 23 planning commission meeting, residents expressed concern over other designations on the map. The board voted that two commercial nodes marked as "needing redevelopment or significant improvements" be removed.

Commissioner Jim Harrell sees the map as a necessary piece of planning.

"We can't look at this and say there's not concern for this or that," Harrell said. "We have to respectfully submit what we see as the truth."

Laughinghouse described the map as an indicator of "areas that have potential demands for services that are not there."

"We have to look beyond the end of our noses," Laughinghouse said. "I don't think there's anybody in here who isn't hoping for a major [economic] turnaround ... and it will turn around, but this is not a scare tactic."