The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved an unusual rezoning in hopes of helping a large equipment dealership’s plans for future development.
On Thursday, June 6, commissioners voted 5-0 to approve a county-initiated rezoning from Commercial Business District (CBD) to Master Planned District (MPD) with a variance to reduce the residential portion of the MPD to zero percent of the 32.27 acres where a Caterpillar Inc., dealership, operated by Austell-based Yancey Bros. Co., is slated for development.
“They’re making a huge investment,” said Christopher Light, a zoning attorney representing the dealership. “They wanted to be sure in a phased buildout that they can do what they think they can do.”
What the dealership hopes to do, Light said, is become “a hub for North Georgia” with three development phases.
The dealership’s plans include phases 10-20 years out, culminating in a “corporate office-type structure.”
Light, who also serves on the Cumming City Council, also detailed measures taken to assuage the concerns of nearby residents in the Settlers Lake subdivision, highlighted by a 100-foot buffer of trees between the adjoining properties.
One resident still had concerns about the safety of the intersection.
“You’re going to have a tighter turn with big-rig trucks,” said Ken Hamby. “I can see accidents happen. … It just needs to be looked at again sometime between Forsyth County and [Georgia Department of Transportation.]”
Another resident spoke in favor of the dealership but disapproved that the county initiated the rezoning.
“It smacks of favoritism,” he said.
Cindy Jones Mills, who represents District 4 where the dealership is planned, said the county “went above and beyond normal public participation” for the rezoning.
In the end, commissioners approved it and added on two more conditions to the rezoning.
The first requires sewer access to be provided to upstream properties.
The second prevents Yancey Bros. Co., from using “singular plastic insert or panel sheet” wall signs, requires “individual channel” wall lettering and any illuminated lettering be “individually formed and lighted.”
Commissioners unanimously approved changes that incorporate Georgia Department of Transportation’s guidelines into the county's rules and regulations regarding turn lanes, driveway and “encroachment control."
Dubbed “the yield sign issue,” Semanson said, the GDOT protocols reflected in the county’s ordinance include:
-- The driver of the vehicle on the left must yield to the driver on the right at intersections where there are no stop signs, yield signs or other traffic signals,
-- drivers must yield to all traffic coming from the opposite direction when making a left turn at an intersection, or into an alley or driveway,
-- drivers must yield to all vehicles, including bicycles, which are approaching from the opposite direction, and pedestrians crossing either roadway,
-- and that drivers should understand the regulations and make safe judgments to avoid T-bone crashes.
The changes are part of a renewed interest by commissioners in traffic measures after a wave of complaints from residents, particularly regarding the use or yield signs.
At previous meetings, residents and commissioners expressed confusion and frustration with the placement of some yield signs in the county that required drivers making a right turn to yield to those turning left.
The county has worked over recent weeks to remove improper yield signs.