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County moves ahead with ‘super overlay’ for area of proposed city
Forsyth County

The proposed city of Sharon Springs could be a big topic in Forsyth County this year, and two county commissioners are looking at ways to deal with the concerns of residents living in the area.

At a work session Tuesday, commissioners voted 4-0, with District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos absent, to move ahead with a Sharon Springs Overlay.

“What we have done is we’ve talked with a couple different stakeholders … to see if there was another solution or alternative path that we could take to try to address some of the reasons that got us where we are right now with respect to the area of Sharon Springs looking at wanting to have their own … governance,” said District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson.

Semanson said the county would look at creating a unique area that does not currently exist in the county and would expand the character area, a designation created by the county’s new comprehensive plan approved last year. 

“It’s like blowing up our character area and refining it more all the way to the edge of becoming a township, which doesn’t really exist truly in Georgia,” she said.

Semanson described the area as a “super overlay” that would look into issues that those in favor of cityhood have supported, including architectural and zoning rules.

“My goal would be to include them in the conversation to make sure that we’re developing something that meets their requirements,” she said. 

County staff said the matter could be made as part of an existing contract developing new countywide standards and would require some changes to a work plan approved as part of the comprehensive plan update. 

The motion included looking at changes for both commercial and residential developments. 

Semanson said the plan could be used as a model for other areas in the county. 

In 2017, District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones introduced House Bill 626, which opened the door for cityhood.

The bill included a 12-member committee recommended by commissioners and delegation members, and the committee recommended in October letting voters decide whether or not to support the city, which would need the support of 57.5 percent — a compromise between a simple majority and two-thirds majority — of voters. 

Before going to voters, the bill will need to pass both houses of the Georgia General Assembly and be signed by Gov. Nathan Deal to go to voters. If passed, the referendum will be held in May.

The approximate boundaries of the proposed city are east of Ga. 400, south of Hwy. 20, west of the Chattahoochee River — already a boundary with Gwinnett County — and north of the Fulton County line.

In October, Forsyth County approved having a study done by Georgia State University on the impact of the potential city.

The proposal is not the first try for commissioners to mitigate the issues for the city. In 2016, a subarea planning board was created to look at District 2 was discontinued in favor a group of citizen advocates for each district.