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Future overlay appeals may be granted
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Forsyth County News


The Forsyth County commission may change the Peachtree Parkway Overlay District process to allow for appeals, although doing so will be too late for a recent issue.

Tuesday, the commission voted 4-1 to hold two public hearings on a possible change to the county unified development code, which would allow commissioners to hear appeals of planning board decisions involving the district.

The commission's discussion came in the wake of some community concern about the planning board's Jan. 25 approval of an aesthetic tweak for Academy Sports Outdoors, which plans to open a store at The Avenue Forsyth.

The overlay requires the exterior of stores at the outdoor shopping mall in south Forsyth be 75 percent brick, stone and glass, while Academy's plan calls for 45 percent.

Unlike all other votes, the planning board currently has the final say on alternative design reviews. The matter is not required to go before the county commission.

Smart Growth Forsyth County, along with residents and homeowners associations, sought an appeal. Without an appeal mechanism, however, the request has been turned down.

Chairman Brian Tam, who represents the district that includes the overlay, proposed the adjustment, which he likened to a change in sketch plat review years earlier.

"There are some contentious issues on there ... we might bring that to the board and let the elected officials deal with those items," Tam said during a work session.

Commissioner Patrick Bell, the lone opponent of the change, said appeals should be heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals rather than the commissioners.

"We have appointees who specialize in certain areas. I don't see why they can't continue," he said. "I've seen too many issues where special interest groups exert political pressure."

The county's only other overlay of this type, the Castleberry-Bethelview Crossroads Overlay District, also gives the planning board final authority on alternative design reviews.

Though the commission discussed also changing the county code for this overlay, no action was taken to consider adding an appeals process.