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Forsyth commission reviews second city proposal
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Forsyth County News

FORSYTH COUNTY — The Forsyth County commission on Tuesday heard a presentation from its attorney on the possible impact of a proposed new city in south Forsyth.

Ken Jarrard began by covering the likely boundaries of the city, which was the focus of three well-attended town hall-style meetings this fall.

“The [Community Improvement District in southwest Forsyth] is not a part of this potential municipality,” he began. “You’ve got the southern boundary being Fulton County, the eastern boundary Gwinnett [County], you’ve got sort of a northern boundary there being Highway 20, and of course the western boundary being contiguous with Ga. 400.”

Creating a city of Sharon Springs would require Forsyth County’s seven state lawmakers — five representatives and two senators, all Republicans — to agree that’s the best plan.

Any such decision would likely be based on the results of a feasibility study and a general community consensus that a second city would be better than the status quo or other options, such as changing the structure of the county commission or consolidating the county and city of Cumming governments.

If such a bill were to pass, residents within the boundaries of the proposed city — an estimated quarter of the county’s population — would then vote on the concept. That was a point that concerned commissioners.

“Marietta has 58,000 people, and this has [about 50,000],” said Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills. “Sandy Springs has 35,000, Dunwoody 35,000 roughly.”

If approved, Sharon Springs would likely be a “city light,” like Peachtree Corners.

“The model that is over in Gwinnett County basically is a city that can do three things,” Jarrard said. “And Peachtree Corners can do code enforcement, solid waste disposal and planning and zoning.

“It is at least our understanding that those are the three municipal functions that Sharon Springs wants to do.”

During the presentation Jarrard discussed what the new city would mean for county services located within the area. Since the city wouldn’t be able to do much, roads and sewer would remain the county’s responsibilities.

In the beginning, the city likely would have a transitional period.

“However, at some point the transition period stops, and at that point it would therefore beg the question, ‘OK, now who is going to upkeep and maintain these roads,’” Jarrard said. “I anticipate that be done by way of an intergovernmental agreement between the county and this entity.”

Mills also expressed opposition to the feasibility study being conducted by the Carl Vinson institute on behalf of the Sharon Springs Alliance, a nonprofit organization aimed at addressing what members say is the need for controlled growth in Forsyth. Results from the study are anticipated in early March.

Mills said it likely will return findings only in favor of a city, adding that such studies never find that a city isn’t viable.

“To me, when you talk about doing a study, what’s a study, you’re going to get all the information, you’ll have all the facts, but it’s a lopsided study,” she said “This is a big, big deal. This changes the makeup of our county from here on.”

Jarrard offered one option to a new city.

“We could offer up an alternative, which would be to basically take the borders of this potential city and hyper focus on the planning and land use in this area,” he said.

“There are options the board of commissioners could take fairly quickly … not something that would take three or four years, but six or eight months.”