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Here's why Forsyth County denied a truck terminal’s plans for expansion
RUS-AL (USA) Inc. operates a truck terminal at 755 Union Hill Road. Forsyth County commissioners denied the company's requests to amend zoning conditions and get a conditional-use permit on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (GoogleMaps)

Thursday was a busy meeting night for Forsyth County Commissioners in regards to zonings, as a pair of decisions were made for a west Forsyth trucking business, plans moved ahead to expand a mining business in north Forsyth and a grocery store on Bethelview Road took a step toward a new use.

All items were approved by a 5-0 unless otherwise noted.


As Forsyth County has grown in recent years, issues between industrial businesses in the area and nearby residential neighborhoods have formed over the future use of land in some areas, particularly the south end.

One ongoing issue has been between neighbors and representatives with RUS-AL (USA) Inc., which operates a truck terminal at 755 Union Hill Road, near the intersection with McFarland Parkway.

Three items related to the business were on the meeting’s agenda. Requests to amend zoning conditions on the property and for a conditional-use permit with variances to operate an open storage yard with 133 parking spaces for an existing 18,000-square-foot building with 26 parking spaces were both denied.

A decision on whether to approve a sketch plat for the property was postponed until February and will require a public hearing.

There was disagreement between Ethan Underwood, the attorney representing the development, and county officials about whether the property was used as a truck terminal, which is allowed under the code, or a storage facility.

“Our client operates a truck terminal on this property. There are vehicles moving in and out constantly,” Underwood said.

Tom Brown, Forsyth County’s director of planning and community development, disagreed and said it was a storage yard. That decision has been appealed by the applicant.

“We classified the use as an open storage yard, not a truck terminal,” Brown said. “Our unified development code has a definition of a truck terminal, and it places an emphasis on the movement of goods on-site. Based on my site visit, I didn’t see that. I saw what looked like an open storage yard for tractor-trailers.”

Throughout the process, residents have brought up issues of traffic, safety, the proximity to nearby DeSana Middle School, aesthetics and the future use of the area, and several neighbors spoke at the meeting against the proposal, including Mark Schaefer, who lives in the nearby Chadbourne neighborhood.

“Additional traffic and the kind of equipment that they’re operating will increase environmental noise and air pollution in the area, affecting homeowners living in neighborhoods on Union Hill and James Road,” Schaefer said. “The additional heavy vehicle traffic will also cause the brand-new roads to fail faster, and they’re also dangerous for homeowners.”

Underwood pushed back against claims from the opposition.

“Regarding home values, these folks, respectfully, live close to an industrial park that has been in operation since the 1970s,” he said. “Regarding safety, we certainly want to make sure all the people using the sidewalk are quite safe, but I measured this out and it is approximately 2,800 feet to the middle school, so people, if they are in fact [walking], they’re walking a half-mile down the road to this property. I find this difficult to believe, but perhaps there are people who do that.”



A proposed agreement between Forsyth County and two property owners in north Forsyth that would expand an existing mine operation and end a proposal to add a large number of apartments.

Commissioners voted to postpone a decision on whether to rezone 234 acres on Smith Drive near Ga. 400 from multi-family residential (Res-6) to industrial districts M1 and M2 and mine district to January.

But commissioners approved a sketch plat with variances for the expansion of the business, which includes a ready-mix concrete plant.

The land is currently owned by the Mashburn Martial Trust and zoned for about 1,000 apartments. Through the plan, neighboring property owner Georgia Stone Products will purchase the land and Forsyth County will affirm the company’s right to use a sand mine on the property which has gal nonconforming status – a zoning that was legal at the time of approval but is not allowed under current standard

“Typically, you don’t have conditions on a sketch plat but this was part of this negotiation,” said District 4 Commissioner Cindy Mills. “You don’t usually see a ready-mix plant as part of a settlement. It was given as part of a settlement agreement. It’s a strange occurrence.”

In 2012, commissioners settled issues with both parties related to a 2010 zoning decision. Suits were filed after commissioners approved rezoning 115-acres at the mine for a planned eco-industrial park on Leland Drive.

The rezoning of the residential land was a condition of settlement.

Of the current commissioners, only Todd Levent, who represents District 3, was on the board in 2012 and none were on the board in 2010.


Audi dealership

A grocery store on Bethelview Road took two steps toward becoming a dealership after two approvals during the meeting.

Commissioners approved alternate design and approved a request to build a 79,000-square-foot vehicle sales dealership using the existing building and 502 parking spaces on 12 acres at the intersection of Bethelview and Atlanta roads for developer JBE Realty Holdings, LLC. The property is currently an Ingles grocery store.

Several variances, included those related to delivery hours, landscaping and allowing more cars to front the road, were needed for the project, which Underwood said was required as the current building will be retrofitted for the new use.

Documents submitted to the Forsyth County Department of Planning & Community Development show that the Ingles building would be converted into a 42,000-square-foot showroom and 37,000-square-foot repair center.

Jim Ellis Automotive Group, which will operate the dealership, has 18 dealerships in Buford, Chamblee, Kennesaw, Marietta and McDonough. The group sells a variety of makes, from Kia to Maserati. It has Audi dealerships in Atlanta and Marietta.


Changing use

On Brannon Road, a change to a mixed-use project will move the proposed business portion from commercial business to medical office buildings.

Commissioners approved the rezoning of 0.5 acres from agricultural district (A1) to commercial business district (CBD) and approved a change to zoning conditions on 57 acres previously approved for 75 residential lots and 218 attached residential units with a density of 5.17 units per acre and proposed commercial buildings totaling 115,000 sq. ft. with 461 parking spaces on Access and Brannon roads.

“This is a commercial MPD that we’re proud will have the opportunity to be a medical office building,” said zoning attorney Emory Lipscomb.

Bob Meyer, who lives in the nearby Woodland Park subdivision, said neighbors were in favor of the changes.

“We believe the changes here are reasonable. We’re actually in favor of moving from retail … to medical offices,” he said.