Forsyth County commissioners are still digesting the latest legal setback in the battle over Lanier Golf Course.
Earlier this month, the commission learned its request for a new judge in the lawsuit filed against them by course owners Jack Manton and George Bagley Jr. had been denied.
And while still awaiting word on the county’s request for new trial, at least one commissioner has turned his attention to resolving the matter.
Patrick Bell was not on the commission in 2007 when it voted against the owners’ rezoning request, a decision that triggered the lawsuit they won last year.
If the motion for a new trial is denied, Bell said, then the commission likely will have to give Manton and Bagley a constitutionally appropriate zoning for the 172-acre course off Buford Dam Road.
“Which is what they should’ve gotten in the first place,” Bell said. “I’m not defending the master planned district [the owners] asked for, but what I’m defending is their desire to rezone their property and people have the right to rezone their property.”
Bell added that while he’s not saying a commercial business district should be put on the site, he does support the owners’ right to rezone.
The commission decided in January to stop its pursuit of buying the golf course, which had been publicly discussed in 2010.
Bell said he has no intention to revisit that option, which would have involved buying the course and leasing it a private company to operate.
“We don’t have much money left anyway out of [the voter-approved $100 million parks, recreation and greenspace bond] and everything,” Bell said. “I don’t think we have the funding.”
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the commission had not yet had time to consider the recent court order and the next step.
“We’ll explore our options,” he said.
Reached late Friday, Manton declined to comment on the matter.
He did say, however, that he might release a statement after a decision is made on the county’s request for a new trial.
The course is in District 5, which is represented by Commissioner Jim Boff, who supported buying the golf course site.
Attempts to reach Boff for comment were not successful.
The owners filed suit against the county three years ago, after the commission rejected their request to rezone the site from agricultural to a master planned district.
Following two days of testimony in June, Appalachian Judicial Circuit Judge Roger E. Bradley ruled the course’s agricultural zoning was unconstitutional.
Bradley was assigned to the case after both Forsyth County Superior Court judges recused themselves.
Phillip Friduss, the attorney who represented the county in the matter, took issue with the fact that Bradley visited the site the night before his June 29 decision.
He filed a motion for a new trial and a request to have Bradley recused from the case.
Court documents show that Friduss contended Bradley, after closing arguments had been made and he was invited to visit the course, announced he had already gone.
Friduss characterized Bradley’s visit as “independent, unsolicited and undisclosed.”
In an order dated March 18, Enotah Judicial Circuit Chief Judge David E. Barrett noted that Friduss did not object when Bradley was invited to the site and denied the request.
Barrett was designated to consider the county’s motion on behalf of the local Superior Court.
In light of his decision, he referred the motion for a new trial back over to Bradley for a final ruling.