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Forsyth commission lifts moratorium on rezonings
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FORSYTH COUNTY -- After a moratorium on three residential zoning categories has been in place for three months, a limited number of proposals for those categories will now be allowed.

Though Forsyth County commissioners voted 5-0 on Thursday to extend the overall moratorium on rezoning applications for single-family residential Res-2, Res-3 and Res-4 districts for 90 more days, they will allow up to seven applications to be filed per month.

Proposals for condition amendments, sketch plat approvals and conditional use permits will count toward the total, as will county-initiated rezonings. Each of the county’s five districts can have up to two proposals per month.

The moratorium was first put in place in March due to a backlog of work and an understaffed Planning and Community Development Department.

“Whereas residential is one of the heaviest, or most intense, items that the county gets, the expectation was that providing this residential moratorium would provide our planning staff some relief as they were able to then recruit other staff members,” County Attorney Ken Jarrard said.

Residential zonings increase in density as they increase in number. For example a Res-2 zoning is less dense than a Res-4. The three categories under the moratorium tend to be the most popular.

The ban was lifted for all categories except the three single-family residential categories in April.

In May, the commission continued the same rules and also considered extending them to the end of the year.

Tom Brown, the planning department’s director, said new staff has been hired in the department’s long-range planning division but that they are still new.

“That division has five staff members, and earlier this year I reported to you that four of those five [positions] were vacant and the one that was filled, the person had had the job for less than a month,” he said. “As of today, three of the five positions are filled.”

He said the proposal cap and 90-day extension of the moratorium will give the new hires a chance to gain experience and see the “complete picture” of the process.

“It’s a three month process, typically, three months or more for rezoning, but a new cycle starts every month,” Brown said. “After you get through two or three months, the staff has seen an application go through every step of the process.”

The county has also had a moratorium in place on Res-6 rezoning requests — town houses, low-density apartments and condominiums — since September.

That moratorium will be lifted within 60 days of the completion of updating the county’s comprehensive plan, a process that is ongoing and expected to wrap up at the end of the year.