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Housing, water among issues for committee
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Forsyth County News

What's next
Forsyth County will hold two public meetings on the future development map. The sessions, both set for 5 to 8 p.m., will be at Brookwood Elementary on March 7 and Coal Mountain Elementary on March 14. Online:

A steering committee weighed in on Forsyth County's issues and opportunities for the working update of the comprehensive plan.

The Wednesday meeting was the second for the steering committee, which reviewed a list of county ideas drawn from staff input, stakeholder interviews and comments from two public meetings in late 2010.

Six of the nine committee members met Wednesday to review a draft and offer input.

In about a week, after county officials work in the group's suggested changes, the document will be available on the county's Web site.

That draft will be a part of the final community agenda portion of the comprehensive plan, which must be approved by the county commission and sent to the state by June 30, 2012.

Two public hearings are scheduled for late 2011, after the full draft has been prepared.

The updated comprehensive plan will serve as a policy guide for decisions related to growth and land use for the years 2012-32.

Vanessa Bernstein, the county's senior long-range planner, advised the committee Wednesday that there are still several steps before the document is finalized. First up is identifying issues and opportunities.

"This piece we're discussing tonight is really the heart of all the other components of the plan," Bernstein said.

For example, issues and opportunities will be used to define the future land-use map and identify policy goals, she said.

The committee started off by considering the issue of water supply.

Planning commissioner Joe Moses, a committee member, said the plan should include a goal of water independence.

He invited Lafarge quarry landowner George Woelper to speak about the possibility of turning the site into a reservoir.

"You have a big hole in the ground and it just makes sense," Woelper said. "We see our interests running parallel with the county's."

The group agreed to add an opportunity point that the county "may pursue" existing quarries.

Another top point of discussion was variety in housing to match residents' needs.

With the county population projected to double over the time frame covered in the plan, housing and transportation were the next biggest issues.

The committee stressed the importance of including multi-family or work force housing, and possibly making those types incentive-based.

As for transportation, Bernstein said, the public didn't stress a need for passenger rails or sidewalks, topics floated by the committee.

"People clearly see traffic congestion as a problem," she said.

The committee decided to add an opportunity to seek out legislative funding opportunities to meet these needs.

Protecting farm land, developing tourism, and moving from shopping centers to village identities were other topics of discussion.

Moses threw out the last committee-added opportunity at the close of the meeting, pointing out that a "huge" issue is the separation of city and county planning.

For that, the group agreed on an open-ended item to "explore the possibility of city-county consolidation."

The steering committee will meet again in April, following two public participation meetings on the future development map.