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Forsyth County Commissioners sound off on residential design bill

This week, Forsyth County Commissioners took aim at a bill in the Georgia General Assembly that they said was directed at the county’s residential design standards.

At their regular meeting on Thursday evening, commissioners voted unanimously to have County Attorney Ken Jarrard, who was not present at the meeting, to research the legality of and draft a resolution in opposition to House Bill 302, which was introduced by District 133 state Rep. Vance Smith, of Pine Mountain and, according to the bill’s summary, would “prohibit local governments from adopting or enforcing ordinances or regulations relating to or regulating building design elements as applied to one or two-family dwellings.”

“It’s a bill pending before the general assembly that seeks to strip from local governments from throughout the state the authority to adopt land-use regulations that address residential building design elements, such as exterior building color, platting material, roof materials, exterior ornamentation, window placement and other similar items,” District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said.

Mills said the change “would effectively repeal many of the county’s overlays, including the District 4 Coal Mountain Overlay and others” and would nullify architectural standards the county is currently working on.

HB 302 was first introduced on Feb. 13 and was sent to the House’s agriculture and consumer affairs committee.

“This bill has got great potential to hurt us greatly,” Mills said. “They entered it into the agriculture committee, which is very rural. The people that sit on that committee, they don’t even have zoning in their counties. It’s very hard for them to understand living in a county that has grown as fast as ours.”

Chairwoman Laura Semanson said the bill “squeaked out” of the committee by a 6-5 vote and was told it would not be moving forward, which she disputed.

“It does not have as much broad appeal, I think, as we were fearful that it did,” she said. “I’ve gotten further comments from a person that was on that committee that it’s not going to see the floor. I don’t trust that. It’s early in the session right now. This is beyond paint swatches and those types of things. This is an absolute assault on our home rule, on the ability for a smaller government that is closer to the people to represent their interests.”

Mills said the change is being supported by members of the home-building industry and those who sell building materials such as vinyl and wood.

“When you read the bill, the first thing that it says is that counties are having people to ‘choose their paint colors for them.’ It’s making it sound just horrific,” she said.

District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent said the county has never made such rules for residential units. Mills said some other jurisdictions, including the city of Alpharetta, have.