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County has month to craft golf course plan
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Forsyth County News


After more than four years of litigation, Forsyth County commissioners have about a month to put together a new vision for the Lanier Golf Course site that will keep the issue out of court.

To meet a court-ordered deadline to rezone the 172-acre site on Buford Dam Road in east Forsyth within 45 days, the commission must advertise possible zonings for the property.

For two upcoming public hearings, the commission agreed last week that the front tract of the property, about 92 acres, will be advertised for rezoning to a master planned district with a conditional use permit for a continuing care retirment community.

The nearly 80 acres in the rear will be advertised for a change to Res-3, or single family residential.

During a work session Tuesday, the commission examined the details of those proposed zonings. "What's before us now is to try and find some common ground for density," Chairman Brian Tam said. "On June 16, we're going to vote on this."

Commissioners discussed density possibilities and zoning conditions that county staff will incorporate into a plan to present to the public.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said "no bona fide purchaser" has been identified for the property, but owners Jack Manton and George Bagley Jr. provided a conceptual site plan primarily for senior living.

On the tract proposed for a zoning of master planned district, the plan calls for 429 age-restricted residences of various types and a hospice including 200 beds. The back residential tract lists 190 homes.

Wanting to minimize the density impact, commissioners agreed to allow of 160 homes on the back tract.

A Res-3 zoning with a Res-2 density would minimize impact while increasing buffer requirements and green space, Commissioner Patrick Bell said.

The density and impact were the same considerations when discussing the front half, which didn't garner as much consensus.

The group agreed to move forward with the plan that 200 hospice beds would be allowed in a building with a maximum height of three stories.

Another 325 senior residences, including apartment units, villas, cottages and others, would also be allowed on the master planned district portion of the property.

A commercial outparcel would be designated as a use related to the remainder of the development.

Commissioner Todd Levent said one of the owners told him in a phone conversation that 500 to 550 units would be an acceptable amount and "keep it out of court."

In moving toward a final propsoal, the board directed its attorney to ask the property owners about ratios of different types of senior units in the development and their vision for the site.

Commissioner Jim Boff, whose district includes the golf course, didn't agree that a master planned district of that density would make sense.

"This kind of thing doesn't belong on Buford Dam Road," said Boff, who favors a restricted residential zoning for the entire site.

Bell saw the proposed development as a better option for the county than a neighborhood.

"You couldn't ask for a better use of land -- low impact, low trip generation and high taxes," he said.

The golf course issue has simmered since 2007, when the course owners sued the county after commissioners rejected their request to rezone the property from agricultural to a master planned district.

The owners, Jack Manton and George Bagley Jr., had a contract with a developer to buy the site, contingent upon its rezoning.

Appalachian Judicial Circuit Judge Robert E. Bradley, who was appointed to the matter after the county's two Superior Court judges recused themselves, ruled in Manton and Bagley's favor in June 2010, following two days of testimony.

After some additional legal challenges, Bradley instructed the county on May 12 "to rezone the property to a constitutional zoning classification within 45 days."