County, developers at odds over south Forsyth mall
Issues abound at Taubman property

Forsyth County officials are planning to meet with developers of a planned regional mall in south Forsyth.

This week, commissioners voted 5-0 to push back decisions on whether to send money to the Taubman Development, a planned regional mall that sits on 164 acres between Union Hill Road and McFarland Parkway, and to approve a sketch plat for a portion of the project until after the meeting.

Another issue, a discussion of the Ronald Reagan/Union Hill Overlay District, was also postponed until after the meeting.

“The overlay was created with an eye for a certain product to be delivered. The overlay was never created to build apartments,” County Attorney Ken Jarrard said. “The overlay was intended to create a marquee mall … the point that has been a source of friction and consternation is that Taubman is leveraging all of the low-hanging fruit, but we’re not seeing any advancement on the very reason for the overlay in the first place.”

Taubman penned a deal with the county in 2008 for a regional mall, office space, hotels and residential units on the property.

Some of the projected 875 residential units have been built, but the site has not seen any of the hotels, shopping or retail spaces come out of the ground.

Initially, plans called for the mall to open in 2015 but were later pushed back to 2020.

Under the agreement, the county would pay Taubman for right of way in two installments, and Taubman would repay back the funds if the terms of opening by 2020 are not met.

Another option was to pay the $1,287,500 due for the second payment and let time expire on the project.

Harold Buckley, an attorney representing Taubman, said traditional malls are facing issues and said officials are working on a way to turn the project into a destination. 

“The traditional regional shopping mall is facing headwinds that are fairly unprecedented,” he said. “Taubman has been going back to the drawing board to see how it can reconfigure the experience that is at this location so it can generate the numbers you need for a regional shopping mall.” 

Commission Chairman Todd Levent said he did not want to move forward with the plat for apartments at the site until after the meeting due to concerns the commercial portion might not come.

“This is my seventh year [as a commissioner]. I’ve had the opportunity not to be the original maker of this deal. However, I’ve experienced a lot of how Taubman negotiates and how they work,” Levent said. “They’re very good at negotiating, and they move very slow, like they say, and they’re always trying to get you to give them a little something, but you never get in return.

“But you keep getting another carrot put out in front of you and promised that [they] will, but [they] haven’t.”

Levent said the meeting should put some of the county’s issues at ease.

Rob Good, with Taubman, said a meeting will happen and that the county is holding the plat hostage due to the other issues.

“I just respectfully ask that you move one thing forward rather than holding two things hostage,” Good said before the vote.

No date for the meeting, which will be between Taubman and Levent and District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos on behalf of the county, has been set.