A change to Forsyth County’s unified development code could prevent commissioners and the community from being surprised by long-dormant zonings.
At their regular meeting on Thursday, commissioners unanimously approved adding “sun-setting” language to the code to deal with zonings in which the property owner or developer does not obtain land disturbance permits within 18 months.
“Staff will put that developer or property owner, likely property owner, on notice,” County Attorney Ken Jarrard said. “If there still is no land disturbance permit applied for, they will then bring it back to the board agenda in consideration of a change in zoning.”
Jarrard said District 4 in north Forsyth has been especially impacted by such zonings.
“We’re trying to clean up some of these old, historic zonings that have languished and whatever may have made since in 2004 or 2003 or 2001 no longer makes sense,” Jarrard said. “Out of nowhere, they pop up, they’re ready to go to final plat for building permit and everybody descends upon [commissioners].”
Once it reaches commissioners, a decision will be made whether or not to change the zoning. The change will only apply to zonings moving forward and will not affect already-zoned properties.
“We’ve got things that we know are sitting out there. Our vision for the county may not matter if we have stale zonings out there that don’t comply with how we see this county growing,” District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson said. “It’s an unfair thing to people that have come here and established their homes, their lives, their businesses and to have a ticking time bomb next to them.”
During a public hearing, resident Margie Carroll told commissioners she lived near where an adults-only hotel would be built that was originally zoned for storage.
“In 2003 we had a [community business district zoning] and a very creative attorney found a loophole and I now have what we call ‘the storage unit suites,’ which is a hotel,” she said. “If that sun-setting language had been in effect, we would not have a hotel in place of storage units in a place where a hotel does not belong.”
Zoning attorney Emory Lipscomb spoke against the change and said the he wasn’t against the intent of the change but that it would cause issues.
“You’re talking about 12 years ago, 15 years ago, and will allow this to take place after 12 months [as previously proposed],” he said. “Second of all, there are lenders that are concerned about this that will not make loans on property on this county because of a provision like this; they don’t know how long it is going to take to develop a property, and they’re very cautious about paying money.”