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Foster Forsyth unveils first draft of 2017-2037 plan for county
CompMap WEB
The draft to Forsyth County's comprehensive plan update breaks the county down by 11 character areas. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

Read the plan

Visit Foster Forsyth online to read the draft plan and submit comments.

FORSYTH COUNTY -- After months of meetings, public input and brainstorming, a draft of Forsyth County’s update to its comprehensive plan is now available.

Foster Forsyth, the name of the update, published the first draft online this week. The 160-plus page document was drafted through work from planning officials, input from local stakeholders and meetings with residents dating back to April.

“It’s very much been a community-driven plan in terms of the content, the vision,” said Amanda Hatton of Jacobs Engineering, “then working through making sure it’s technically sound and realistic and achievable, really balancing all the different voices we’ve heard with our technical, professional expertise.”

According to the draft, more than 500 participants took part in those workshops and more than 4,800 responded to an online community survey that was open to the public for a month.

The plan seeks to guide policy over a 20-year period and provide a strategy for growth and development.

Forsyth County hs contracted Jacobs Engineering and Kimley-Horn and Associates to devise the plan.

Foster Forsyth has also been driven by members of its vision and steering committee, which has concluded their meetings.

Character areas

One of the most notable aspects of the plan is its breaking down the county into 11 distinct areas, typically named after a community or landmark.

According to the plan, the following are the future goals for each character area, some of which have undergone name changes since its inception:

• McFarland is “appropriate for office and employment centers with higher intensity development along Ga. 400 and adjacent to major transportation corridors.” Due to the businesses, the plan states there will also be a need for housing integrated or connected to job centers, as well connections to sidewalks and trail systems.

• South Ga. 400 will likely have new town center developments, for which new residential development should “play a secondary role.” The area is also planned for larger-scale business and office uses.

The plan seeks to preserve suburban character of the Big Creek area but also calls for mixed-use development and connectivity through public-private partnerships. Large-lot, single family housing with design standards is also appropriate for the area.

• Haw Creek is intended to be a more transitional area between suburban south Forsyth and the more spacious areas around Lake Lanier. The plan also calls for medium and large lots and open space.

The Lanier area, which as the name implies is tied to the lake, is one of the most diverse character areas. It is estimated that some medium and large residential lot developments go in the south, and a plan will be needed for any redevelopment in the north. Business is limited in the area except for retail and restaurants on major corridors and “a potential regional hospitality attraction at or near Mary Alice Park.”

• Vickery Creek is expected to maintain its current “feel and appeal,” with commercial development tied to mixed-use developments. Residential development is likely for the northern portion, which will use similar design and pricniples as surrounding development.

For the Campground area, medium-sized lots that are “complementary in scale and style to the area’s more rural character” are expected, with some larger residential and commercial development near Canton Highway (Hwy. 20).

• North Ga. 400 is intended “for medium-scale, medium-intensity business and office uses.” New industry should be located near Ga. 400 and Hwys. 369 and 306. The area is also appropriate for a town center development, and residential intensity will decrease further from commercial development.

The areas of Chestatee/Jot Em Down are expected to stay primarily low-intensity residential with limited commercial near Hwy. 369. Strategies to preserve open space and rural character are also recommended.

• Etowah is another area where the rural character will likely be conserved. Town center and industry are proposed for the intersections of Hwy. 369 and Bannister and Mount Tabor roads, though density will decrease further from the area.

• Sawnee Mountain will seek lower-intensity commercial and residential developments with an emphasis on high-quality design and preservation.

Current and future Forsyth

The plan projected the future makeup of the county, including an expectation that the population will grow to more than 363,000 residents by 2037 with an increasing percentage of Asians, Hispanics and other minorities populating the area.

That pace of growth was determined by looking into the county’s growth patterns and slowing them by 25 percent.

Visions for housing and economic goals are less clear over the next 20 years, as the future market will influence those.

It is estimated that the county will continue to pursue higher quality residential developments, which officials said should not result in lower demand and could mean higher values.

“This could lead to fewer, new homes built over the next 20 years than would have been constructed under current policies, but higher-quality developments,” the plan says.

Per the document, economic growth will depend on population growth.

The plan also took into account what residents thought of Forsyth County in 2016. Quality of schools was the most popular answer, earning more than 70 percent of responses in a survey over what residents liked about the county.

Cost of living, proximity to recreation areas, and rural character were also popular responses.

The draft detailed ongoing issues as Forsyth goes “from largely undeveloped land to an urbanized community, particularly south of the City of Cumming.”

Reviewing the plan and next steps

On Monday and Wednesday, a pair of open houses showcasing the draft was held at the Forsyth County administration building, where residents looked at and give input on the plan.

At the meeting, attendees reviewed the plan, character areas and other information and were able to speak with officials.

“I like this because it’s more visual and better than sitting at a committee meeting where you don’t know what they’re talking about,” said attendee Ron Meier.

Officials will use information from the sessions to revise the draft, which is expected out Sept. 12, though it is not thought it will significantly change. The following day there will be a combined work session between the county’s commission, planning board and District 2 planning committee before a public hearing on Sept. 27.

Commissioners are scheduled to take action on the plan in March now instead of December.

Implementation and action plan

To make the goals a reality, the update has an implementation plan for land use, housing, economic, transportation and quality of life standards. Foster Forsyth also created a five-year action plan that will pursue those goals.