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Hearing held, but decision delayed
Comments center on Howard Road
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Forsyth County News


A public hearing on a component of the comprehensive plan update focused primarily on land use in an area of west Forsyth.

The hearing Thursday night offered residents a chance to share their views on the community agenda portion with officials.

The plan serves as a guide for decisions involving future growth and land use for the next 20 years, from 2012-32.

Commissioners voted 5-0 on Thursday to hold the public hearing, but to defer until Dec. 15 a decision on sending the proposal to the state for review.

Vanessa Bernstein, the county’s senior long-range planner, said the current version of the plan is a result of a 15-month community process, including seven workshops and several meetings of the steering committee.

Within the community agenda, the subject of the hearing, Bernstein said “the future development map is truly the heart of the community’s vision.”

“It is this map that shows the preferred growth patterns in terms of land use,” she said. “They’re intended to help direct the type, intensity and pattern of development across the county.”

Her comments on the map set the stage for the hearing, in which all but one speaker referred to the color-coded diagram.

Several residents of the Howard Road area addressed the designation of their land, which appeared in an early draft as estate residential and in most — and more recent — drafts as suburban living.

The estate designation is the lowest residential density represented on the map, while suburban living indicates plans for a slightly higher residential density.

Neighbors on both sides of the issue argued on which character area would better represent their road, which is south of Hwy. 20 and adjacent to the Cherokee County line.

Resident Linda Stewart, who favors the current draft’s suburban living, noted that the medium density residential designation would make the whole road uniform, since the north end is marked for that.

The suburban living designation would suggest that a more valuable Res-3 zoning would be appropriate for the area, said Charlotte Ray Stalder, who represented her family.

“[Estate residential], in effect, devalues the property in the long run,” she said. “We’re looking out not just for our mom and dad — who don’t plan to sell it anytime soon, or to move — but for our children and grandchildren.”

Resident Jo Anne Leach spoke in favor of changing the designation to estate residential, stating that those looking to sell property as medium density residential would leave behind growth inappropriate for the rural area.

In addition, Leach pointed to a map-voting process that took place in the spring, in which most voters selected a version showing estate residential for Howard Road.

The first draft presented by staff was changed by the steering committee to suburban living.

“The decision-makers decided to overrule the voices of the stakeholders,” Leach said. “The board of commissioners has a chance this evening to correct this wrong.”

The commission did not discuss the Howard Road matter Thursday, but did opt to have staff change the Lanier Golf Course property to village living for the next presented draft.

Village living anticipates integrated residential and non-residential components.

Commissioner Patrick Bell said the recent rezoning to a master planned development should be reflected in the map to match a “virtually identical” situation with a south Forsyth MPD.

In the 4-1 vote, Commissioner Jim Boff opposed the change, stating that the map is merely “a planning tool,” and the current zoning should not dictate the area’s designation.