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Forsyth County commissioners take aim at zoning issues
1WEB MPD property
Chairman Todd Levent read a statement in the meetings that commissioners would vote on rescinding the approval of a 300-unit mixed-use development near South Forsyth High School at an upcoming meeting. - photo by Jim Dean Forsyth County News

Growth in Forsyth is one of the county’s biggest and most hotly debated issues, but it appears the county is attempting to slow that growth
At their first work session of the year, Forsyth County Commissioners took action on several items and discussed others aimed at curbing growth.

The future of two proposed mixed-use developments, changes to the county’s unified development code, and a new citizen’s committee were among the items taken on at the meeting.

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Mixed-use developments

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Commissioners discussed the possibilities of a pair of mixed-use developments proposed for south Forsyth.

One previously approved development will be voted on again.

Chairman Todd Levent read a statement in the meetings that commissioners would vote on rescinding the approval of a 300-unit mixed-use development near South Forsyth High School at their Feb. 2 regular meeting and said the development “should not have been approved.”

“I am concerned that the conditions and site plan accompanying [the development] do not contain various protections I thought were addressed, and that the residential component of the MPD is only “senior-targeted” as opposed to age-restricted,” he said.

In December, commissioners approved the rezoning of about 57 acres from agriculture and community business district to a master planned district, or MPD, for 75 residential lots with 218 attached residential units and commercial buildings.

The board will also take action on a previously tied vote on the proposed South Forsyth Overlay, which could allow for apartments at The Collection, a popular outdoor mall in south Forsyth.

In November, the commission reached at 2-2-1 tie to deny the overlay. Levent and then-District 5 Commissioner Jim Boff were in favor of the denial, while District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills and District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos were opposed and then-District 2 Commissioner Brain Tam recused.

Tam and Boff were succeeded by Rick Swope and Laura Semanson, respectfully, at the beginning of the year, and the two new commissioners will now vote on the overlay. The votes of Levent, Amos and Mills cannot be changed.

The vote will be taken at the Jan. 19 regular meeting.

Two public hearings have previously been held on the overlay -- largely with store owners in favor and residents against -- and County Attorney Ken Jarrard said another public hearing would be needed if commissioners moved forward with the proposal.

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Code changes

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Commissioners looked at several revisions to the county’s unified development code, with some changes being approved for future public hearings.

Approved 4-0, with Amos absent, was a proposed change to the performance standards of several residential zoning districts.

If approved, the item will make changes to standards for zoning districts single-family residential Res-1, Res-2, Res-3, Res-4 and Res- 6 and eliminate single-family community residential district CR2. Zoning applications for Res-3, Res-4 and CR2 were also placed under a moratorium at the meeting.

The changes would increase the minimum heated floor area per units to: 1,000 to 1,500 square feet for Res-1; 1,000 to 2,000 square feet for Res-2; 1,250 to 1,500 square feet for Res-4; and would change Res-6 from 600 square feet to 1,500 for non-apartment zonings and 900 square feet for a one bedroom apartment with an additional 150 for each extra bedroom.

The minimum side setbacks for Res-2, Res-3 and Res-4 would also be changed to 10 feet.

Maximum density per acre would decrease for Res-2 zonings from 1.71 to 1.5 units per acre for developments with on-site sewage disposal and from 2 to 1.8 units per acre for those on public or private sewer, and Res 4 would have a minimum lot width of 80 feet instead of 70.

A few other changes to the code were also discussed and will come back to a future meeting.

One of those is “sun-setting” language that would work to revert zonings made long ago to their previous district.

Jarrard said it was not legal to do so by a condition or ordinance clause as it would not go meet proper zoning requirements.

He said an option with proper due process through the code could work, “where we grant a zoning and build into the [code] some timeframe by which something has to happen, whether it be the application for land development permit, whether it’s an issuance of land disturbance permit, where it’s some sort of change of positon.”

Jarrard said the matter will be discussed at the commission’s next work session.

Changes to language for the names of LLCs on zoning applications and a look at apartment maintenance standards will also come back to future meetings.

Commissioners also voted 4-0 to move forward with a public hearing to revert to a previous version of the county’s tree ordinance, add an additional tree per lot and other possible revisions.

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Creation of citizen advocates

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A new way for the community to get involved with zonings, by way of the creation of a group of citizen advocates, was discussed at the meeting, though no action was taken.

The group was proposed by Swope as a way to “engage the community at a lower level for several purposes.”

As proposed, each commission district would have a group of up to five members appointed by commissioners. Swope said the group would help inform commissioner and planning board decisions and help with nuances in each district.

The group will be discussed at the next work session, where a resolution on the scope of the group and other issues will be discussed.