FORSYTH COUNTY — It appears Forsyth’s planning board will have two vacancies next month after a sitting member’s attempt to stay on the panel instead of resigning was rejected by the county commission Tuesday.
During an afternoon work session, the Forsyth County commission voted against allowing planning board member Greg Dolezal to rescind his resignation. Dolezal represents District 3, which covers southwest Forsyth.
The motion to let him stay on the five-member advisory panel failed 2-3, with Commissioners Todd Levent and Jim Boff in favor and Pete Amos, Cindy Jones Mills and Brian Tam opposed.
As a result, Dolezal’s service on the board likely will end later this month as it’s not scheduled to meet in December.
He will become the second departing member, joining Pam Bowman, who has announced her resignation effective at year’s end. Bowman, who chairs the board, has represented District 1 (Cumming and parts of north and west Forsyth) for four years. Her commissioner, Amos, has not announced a replacement.
Levent, who appointed Dolezal to the panel in spring 2014, said after the work session that he wanted to reappoint him through the end of May.
“And in order to do so, we were going to have to rescind his resignation and reappoint him,” he explained.
Levent added that he wasn’t aware of another instance where the commission had denied a planning board nomination.
The board serves as a recommending body on planning and zoning matters to the county commission, which makes the final decision. Each of Forsyth’s five commissioners has an appointee.
Tuesday night, Dolezal said he had submitted his resignation earlier this year, but was willing to come back after it was discovered that his intended replacement would not be able to serve.
“I wasn’t there [Tuesday afternoon], but for the first time — as I understand it — in the history of Forsyth County, the board of commissioners denied an appointment nomination from a sitting commissioner,” Dolezal said.
“Commissioner Levent had asked me to stay on for an additional six months. I told him I was willing to do it. I was happy to serve the county that way.”
Both Dolezal and Levent contend the denial was politically motivated. They cite Dolezal’s opposition to the proposed formation of a five-member subarea planning board for District 2, which covers populous south Forsyth and is represented by Tam.
According to Levent, Dolezal had also written a letter disagreeing with Tam on local taxes.
“I believe that Greg Dolezal voted against Commissioner Tam’s quest to put together a subarea planning commission that had no real authority of a vote, it was only a recommending board, which we already have as a planning [board],” Levent said.
“Greg Dolezal also sent out a letter contradicting some information about our county taxes that Commissioner Tam sent out, and I think this is retaliation.”
Reached Tuesday night, Tam denied the decision was political, but expressed disappointment in Dolezal.
“I was disappointed in Mr. Dolezal’s comments and his vote during the public hearing of the subarea planning commission for District 2,” Tam said. “I think my constituents want more localized representation and I feel like the subarea planning commission [will give them that].
“I would say there’s nothing politically motivated about this. I’m elected to serve the citizens of Forsyth County and I believe in as much public participation as possible.”
Dolezal noted other members of the planning board did not like the subarea concept — the vote last month was actually 4-1 against it — and maintained that those who opposed him Tuesday have an agenda.
“They want people on that board who will rubber stamp their pro-development agenda, and I wasn’t willing to do that,” Dolezal said. “We just thought this [vote Tuesday] would be a formality. We didn’t know that people were going to play politics with a planning [board] appointment.”
Under the subarea proposal, which the county commission must still approve, four members would be District 2 residents with Tam, the fifth, serving as chair. Tam would only vote in the case of a tie.
It is anticipated the new board would expire in December 2016.
The subarea board would attend planning board meetings for informational purposes before meeting on its own to potentially provide an alternative recommendation on zoning or conditional use permit applications in District 2.
The members would also be able to recommend the commission hold an additional public hearing.
During the planning board’s meeting last month, Dolezal questioned the choice of a separate group for District 2.
“Why not District 3?” he asked at the time. “My district has had more than two times as many zonings this year than any other in the county. In fact, District 2 has had the least [number of zonings].”
He went on to question why the subarea board was proposed to increase transparency.
The issue of having more control over zoning in south Forsyth has been among the top reasons cited by those in favor of creating a second city, Sharon Springs, in the county.
Tam, whose district includes a large portion of the city’s proposed area, has said the subarea planning board did not come about in reaction to Sharon Springs.
Sharon Springs was introduced in the 2015 Georgia General Assembly by District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon of south Forsyth. It is expected to be brought to a vote in the 2016 session, which would initiate the process of forming the city.
Billed as a “city light,” Sharon Springs would offer only zoning, code enforcement and sanitation. Supporters have said it would not impose property taxes or use or create a new sales tax.
The city would cover an area of south Forsyth stretching from the Fulton County line to Hwy. 20, with an eastern border of the Chattahoochee River and a western border of Ga. 400. It would have about 50,000 residents.