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Former Forsyth County jail site focus of study

CUMMING — Staff will conduct a field study to determine the best use of a Forsyth County-owned property off Veterans Memorial Boulevard that was once billed as a possible location for a new jail.

During a work session Tuesday, the county commission discussed plans for the 33-acre site, which is behind Citizens Community Bank.

The county bought the land for $7 million in July 2007 as a possible home for a new jail and the sheriff’s office headquarters. Construction of the projects was part of a bond referendum that voters rejected in 2008.

In February, officials heard a presentation from the Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce on developing part of the site as industrial flex space, or land typically used for industrial and business parks.

“The interest from the developer on this property is looking at potentially purchasing 20 or 20-plus acres for the development … with the understanding that approximately 5 acres of that is not necessarily usable,” said County Manager Doug Derrer.

Under that arrangement, it appears the county would lease the land to the developer and handle grading.

According to Derrer, about 26 acres is useable land, and that a stream runs through the property.

While it remains possible the land could go toward commercial purposes, there also was talk during the meeting of the county using it.

During a recent review of projected county facility needs, officials learned that the county should pursue about 18 renovation and building projects at a projected cost of $90 million over the next 20 years.

“I just don’t feel right about helping a developer to go here and giving up this property until I know what we’re going to do about the county and where we’re going to put our county [facilities],” said Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills.

James McCoy, president of the local chamber, said the county had been in talks for some time about using the property for business purposes, but that the market was just catching up.

“About three years ago, there was a discussion with the development authority that led to a discussion here … where we were given direction that the ideal scenario would be that this piece of property would be something that would generate revenue for the county, rather than begin a drain on revenue,” he said.