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Final piece approved for Lanier Golf Club development
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Four parcels have been added to a development on an east Forsyth golf course, against the recommendation of the county’s planning board and the district’s commissioner.

At a regular meeting on Thursday, Forsyth County commissioners approved 4-1, with District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson opposed, rezoning four parcels from agriculture district to master planned district as part of a previously zoned 321-lot subdivision development the will replace the Lanier Golf Club.

All the lots were surrounded on all sides by the golf course, which is being developed, and totals 3.9 acres.

Though not included in the original rezoning, developer Lennar Inc. has made offers to purchase the parcels. Betty Ann Bagley, one of the property owners, said she was not in favor of the original rezoning but does not want to be surrounded by it, either.

Commissioners originally zoned the property by a 3-2 vote in December with now-Chairman Todd Levent and then-District 5 Commissioner Jim Boff opposed. Semanson and District 2 Commissioner Rick Swope took office in January.

“Lennar has offered to buy my property and three others to keep us being from surrounded by this big subdivision,” she said. “I didn’t ask for the golf course to be rezoned and developed, but now that it is I don’t want to be stuck on an island in a massive development.”

The site plan includes 71 townhomes, 155 single family detached houses and 95 single family residential Res-2 units. Density was not affected by the new parcels.

“The density actually would have been the same whether the remnants were included or not,” said Josh Scoggins, a zoning attorney representing Lennar. “We simply would have rearranged the site, but, again, to keep these islands out of the middle of a neighborhood, Lennar thought it best and I think it’s best to absorb them in.”

Scoggins said conditions were added to incorporate ponds along the first two holes into the development and repair and maintain them.

He also said issues about there being covenants on the properties or belonging to another subdivision had been dismissed by two title attorneys, one hired by the developer and one by the county.

Prior to the motion that was approved, Semanson made a motion to deny the zoning, which failed as it did not get a second, and read a statement on why she felt the zoning is not appropriate for the area and gave a history of surrounding issues.

“This entire process has been rife with issues that I believe it is truly one of the worst zonings in Forsyth County and represents almost everything that has gone wrong in the land use visions,” Semanson said.

Semanson said she felt for the homeowners and understood the zoning was to “clean-up” the area, but said the small size of the lots and lack of commercial made the zoning a “mockery” of the unified development code.

“I do not believe it is ethical to make additional bad decisions to put previous ones to bed,” she said.

The zoning was denied twice by the county’s planning board; once in October 2016 and once in late-February after new members Tim Dineen of District 5 and Stacy Guy of District 2 joined the board.

Issues with the property go back more than decade. In 2007, commissioners denied rezoning the property from agriculture to master planned district. No current commissioners had been elected at that time.

Following a successful lawsuit by owners, the property was court-ordered rezoned in 2011.

Only Levent, who was opposed, and District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos, who was in favor, were on the board at that time.

That decision rezoned the 172-acre golf course from agriculture district to master planned district on 93.8 acres off Buford Dam Road and 78.6 acres to Res-2 south of the intersection of Fairway Drive and Fairway Lane.

Another lawsuit filed by neighbors in 2007, who felt there was an “implied covenant” not to build on the property, was dropped in 2012 after the Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Golf course owners sought and won attorney’s fees for the suit in 2013.