Amendments to a longstanding zoning issue surrounding an east Forsyth golf course were approved, making way for residential development.
At a regular meeting on Thursday, Forsyth County commissioners approved two zoning amendment requests tied to the Lanier Golf Club, each with a 3-2 vote, with District 5 Commissioner Jim Boff and District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent opposed.
The approval means a 321-unit residential development will move forward on the golf course, which has been an issue in the community for more than a decade and has resulted in multiple lawsuits.
Commissioners said during the meeting that the issue has been ongoing for about 12 years.
In 2007, commissioners denied rezoning the property from agriculture to master planned district. The only current commissioner on the board at that time was District 2 Commissioner Brian Tam.
Following a successful lawsuit by owners, the property was court-ordered rezoned in 2011, with Boff and Levent opposed. All current commissioners except District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills were on that board.
That decision rezoned the 172-acre golf course from agriculture district to master planned district on 93.8 acres off Buford Dam Road and 78.6 acres to single-family residential Res-2 district south of the intersection of Fairway Drive and Fairway Lane.
Another lawsuit filed by neighbors in 2007, who felt there was an “implied covenant” not to build on the property, was dropped in 2012 after the Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Golf course owners sought and won attorney’s fees for the suit in 2013.
What was approved
Thursday’s two condition amendments were for each of the divisions on the property.
For the front section, four conditions were amended, and 12 that primarily deal with commercial business, which will no longer be in the development, were deleted.
“What we’re here before you tonight trying to do is replace the master plan that was approved by this board when this case came out of court back in 2011,” said Josh Scoggins, the attorney resenting the developer, before the vote.
Previous plans for the property were for a continuing care retirement center. Scoggins said original plans were for more than 700 units.
“There is a total of 226 units on this plan, coupled with the units that are on the bottom, you’re looking at a total of 321,” he said. “You have 71 townhomes and the rest are single-family detached. [A] 364 reduction on the front is what we’re trying to do here, make it more of a traditional master planned neighborhood.”
For the Res-2 section, Scoggins said the change was “housekeeping” to keep up with rule changes from the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.
Given the longstanding issues with the development, many neighbors used the evening to speak against the zoning, with many claiming traffic and schools would be heavily impacted.
“The traffic on Buford Dam Road right now is horrendous,” said Art Deroy, president of the nearby Avalon Homeowners Association. “I know a lot of this is due to [Hwy.] 20 construction, but I don’t see a major reduction to this traffic once construction is complete and neither do most of my community.”
Scoggins said there will be a turn lane put it to help with traffic and schools affected by the homes will only have about 40 new students each. Though he spoke after those in opposition, many in the audience disagreed.
Other speakers voiced concerns tied to how the zoning would affect homes and the identity of the area.
“I feel that if we just adopt without due consideration we’re going to wind up like a lot of counties that are well-developed, beautiful homes, but crowded,” resident Mark Kover said. “I would value the greenspace, the open space.”
During the meeting, commissioners also remanded back to the county planning board a decision tied to the development.
Recently the planning board had voted 3-2 opposed, with District 1 planning commissioner Rusty Whitlow and District 4 commissioner Bettina Hammond in favor, a rezoning from agriculture to MPD for about 4 acres.