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Forsyth County transmits 20-year plan for state review
Final step before approval in July
Foster Forsyth

What is a comprehensive plan?
- The plan seeks to guide policy over a 20-year period and provide a strategy for growth and development.
- Since April 2016, consultants have held 14 meetings with residents and stakeholders, with nearly 1,000 coming to events and more than 4,800 responding to a community survey.

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How we got here

Dec. 2015: Forsyth County commissioners approve members for vision and stakeholder meetings, two groups formed to begin the update process

March 2016: The first public hearing for the plan is held at a commission meeting

April 2016: The first community meetings, five visioning workshops, are held

Aug. 2016: Open house meetings are held to get input

Dec. 2016: The plan was originally to be submitted at the end of 2016, but was extended to allow new commissioners Laura Semanson, District 5, and Rick Swope, District 2, to take part

March 29: A joint meeting is held between the county’s commissioners and planning board

April 13: Commissioners approve the plan for transmittal

May and June 2017: The plan will be reviewed at the state and regional levels

July 6, 2017: Commissioners will vote on approving the plan

After more than a year of meetings, commissioners have approved sending an update to the 20-year land use plan for state and regional review.

On Thursday, commissioners unanimously voted to send the plan for review after hearing comments from the public and consultants with Jacobs Engineering and Kimley-Horn and Associates, the firms hired to update the plan.

“The comprehensive plan is a very high-level document that is set to guide the county for the next 20 years,” said Allison Stewart-Harris, a senior planner with Jacobs. “It is focused on land use, housing and economic development.”

The update, called Foster Forsyth, seeks to guide policy over a 20-year period and provide a strategy for growth and development.

One of the most visible aspects of the update is splitting the county into 11 distinct areas, typically named after a community or landmark and with regional, community and neighborhood nodes, or areas with specified zoning standards.

The character areas are McFarland, South Ga. 400, Big Creek, Haw Creek/Daves Creek, Lanier, Vickery Creek, Campground, North Ga. 400, Chestatee/Jot Em Down, Etowah and Sawnee Mountain.

Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said transmitting the plan means the county is closer to being able to tackle projects in the community.

“As has been said time and time again, the real meat of what we’re going to do comes after the plan,” she said. “We’ve not be able to do a lot of the things the community has desperately wanted to see done because we haven’t adopted the plan.”

A potential open house meeting was discussed to allow residents to see the completed plan, though it is not part of the county’s contract with Bosman, and nothing was approved. After review, the plan will come back to commissioners for approval on July 6.

Changes from the last draft were made by consultants based on information from a joint meeting of the commission and planning board.

Recommendations from that meeting included reducing the number of nodes to 12, replacing mixed use nodes with certain densities to residential and commercial designations and limiting master planned districts zonings to nodes.

During a required public hearing, about 10 speakers shared their opinions on the plan, including Les Dobbins, who urged commissioners to have a meeting for the public to look at the plan.

“Since tonight is the first time we have seen the revisions that the consultants have done, the first chance the public has had to see it, I’d ask that it be made available,” he said, “so we can see everything and hold probably two more sessions.”