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Green space meeting resembles land auction
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Forsyth County News

Some of the 100 people who came to Thursday's town hall meeting on green space were interested in seeing property preserved for Forsyth County's benefit.

Many, however, appeared more intent on using the session to pitch the value of their land.
Tony Failla said he had two parcels he wanted to sell county commissioners, including 9 acres on Ga. 369 and 1,000 feet of Lake Lanier frontage.

When Commissioner Linda Ledbetter asked his price, Failla said, "Whatever you want to pay me."

"We're gonna hold you to that," Ledbetter said as the exchange drew scattered laughter across the room.

It was Ledbetter who had predicted Thursday's meeting might turn into an auction.

She previously told the other commissioners that people with land to sell as green space are "gonna think it's God's prettiest place in the whole county."

Thursday, the commission presented a list of criteria it created to help find and acquire green space as part of the $100 million bond approved by voters in February.

The guidelines were set prior to last week's hiring of consulting firm Lose & Associates to lead the search.

All five commissioners, as well as the parks and recreation board, were at the meeting to field questions.

Some attendees used the opportunity to voice their opinions on other issues related to green space.

"I don't believe a golf course is legitimate green space," Joseph Neuwirth said. "It's for small groups of individuals and often excludes others."

His plea was a reference to the legal battle over Lanier Golf Course on Buford Dam Road.

Development company Wellstone wants to build a 772-unit residential development that includes a 300-unit continuing care retirement community on the site. The company and the course owners filed suit after the county commission denied Wellstone's rezoning request in September.

In the suit, they contend the commission rejected the company's plan "in order for Forsyth County to purchase the property at less than its fair market value." Other residents have worried that the county will use green space money to buy the site and keep it open as a golf course.

In addition, Neuwirth said he would like to see Bethel Park in northeastern Forsyth used for green space.

"Please consider whatever it takes to acquire this property," he said.

Bethel also is at the heart of a legal battle, this one pitting the county against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which wants to lease the 62-acre site on Lake Lanier to the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta.

The YMCA's $20 million plan calls for cabins, a marina, sports fields, dining hall, amphitheater, chapel and outdoor pool.

Commissioners have voiced concern over the difficulty residents could have accessing the lake if the YMCA turns the park into a private camp, which is its plan.

Randy Woodard of Forsyth County came to Thursday's session on behalf of a group looking to sell two pieces of property to "consider for green space or other county uses."

James Jeffer, who lives in Silverleaf subdivision, wasn't selling any property. He just had some suggestions for a site he wanted to see turned into green space, a parcel on Bethelview Road.