New tree and mass grading rules for developers, a proposed greenway from Forsyth County to Newnan and the latest between the city of Cumming and Forsyth County over a large annexation on Pilgrim Road were among issues discussed this week at a work session for the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.
All items were approved by a 4-0 vote, with District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills absent, unless otherwise noted.
Save the trees
One of the most common sources of frustrations with residents when it comes to development is taking down trees and mass grading.
At this week’s meeting, commissioners heard an update to modifications to local tree and mass grading ordinances from Eric Bosman, with Kimley-Horn, and voted to move forward with bringing the changes to a public hearing, likely in September.
Commissioners attempted to strike a balance between the concerns of neighbors versus creating a burden for developers.
“I think we’ve got some reasonable compromise here that is not too egregious,” said Chairwoman Laura Semanson.
Some of the changes related to trees under the new code are no longer allowing replacement trees within certain buffers, not including trees planted in major utility easements and increased costs for planting alternatives.
Bosman said his company looked at a number of developments across the county and all would be affected differently by the new rules.
“There was no tried and true pattern across the 12 different examples,” he said. “It really applies on a case-by-case basis because of the size of the lot, the size of the development and the existing presence of any specimen trees in the buffer or in the area that the developer plans for it,” Bosman said.
For mass grading, new rules would mean any development larger than 25 acres would not be allowed to remove more than 20 acres in any contiguous area or allowed to have more than two non-contiguous areas disturbed at the same time.
Commissioners directed staff to make some changes to the proposal before the public hearing.
Way down the Chattahoochee
Commissioners recently heard a proposal for a new Chattahoochee Greenway stretching from Buford Dam to Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Newnan, and this week, heard the latest on the plan, including a new name.
The Chattahoochee Riverlands project is a proposed 100-plus-mile greenway currently being studied by the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Trust for Public Land. Locally, the plan proposes a 12-mile continuous greenway from Buford Dam to Johns Creek.
“It’s a very ambitious plan,” said Walt Ray, with the Trust for Public Land. “It involves seven counties and nearly 20 cities along that 100-mile stretch and we just wanted to brief every county or jurisdiction impacted.”
Officials said the goals of the greenway include creating a safe and connected corridor down the river, creating an ecological refuge in the area, making the river a common ground for all and “a living legacy for future generations.”
One-mile buffers on each side of the river are being included in the study.
Semanson said she would like to see the Big Creek Greenway connect with the Chattahoochee Riverlands.
The study on the area will continue until 2020, and commissioners will hear another update this fall.
Over recent months, a rift has appeared between Forsyth County and city of Cumming officials over annexations of land from the county into the city.
In particular, the proposed annexation of land on Pilgrim Road has been a source of tension. The original proposal was for about 125 acres on Pilgrim Road, Dr. Dunn Road and Hwy. 9.
The county had previously voted to voice concerns over the annexation due to changes in the proposal, that none of the parcels across Hwy. 9 should be considered – as one of the parcels at the time was rumored to be withdrawing its annexation request – and the county believed a landowner was asking for an annexation to get around county standards.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said those points were moot and commissioners voted to remove them after Jarrard notified commissioners the parcels across Dahlonega Highway were no longer included.
“The bottom line is the city of Cumming in its correspondence has confirmed that the tax parcels to the west of Hwy. 9 … are no longer part of that annexation and have been withdrawn.” Jarrard said.
The annexation process has been a sore spot between the two governments after a rash of annexation requests in the last two years.
Critics of the city’s zoning and annexations process have claimed it is too lenient, while others criticized the county’s zoning process as too stringent.
Commissioners approved bids for a number of county departments during the meeting.
For the water and sewer department, bids were approved for three new International dump trucks from Rush Truck Centers of Georgia for $335,413 and a new Hi-Cube camera truck from CUES, Inc. for $274,760.
For road projects, $316,840 was approved for environmental and design engineering services for the intersection of Hwy. 9 and Jewell Bennett Road to Pond and Company. And a bid for $386,500 was approved for a transportation planning study on Hwy. 9 from Hwy. 306 to Hwy. 369.A pricing agreement for $1 million for gasoline and diesel shipments for county fuel sites was approved for North Georgia Fuel Co-op.