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Large development approved adjacent to Big Creek Greenway
greenway zoning map

After several changes, a large new zoning has been approved in south Forsyth.

At their regular meeting on Monday, Forsyth County commissioners voted unanimously to approve the rezoning of about 250 acres from agriculture district (A1) to single-family residential Res-2 district for 198 homes on Castleberry Road at the intersection with Atlanta Highway (Hwy. 9) and across from Fowler Park.

The property had initially been proposed as a master planned district (MPD) and commercial business district (CBD) for 344 residential lots and 84 attached residential units on 287 acres with a density of 1.48 units per acre and 49,800 square feet of commercial buildings with 239 parking space.

Previously, the county’s planning board approved the zoning with no more than 250 homes and to be zoned Res-2, Res-2 estate lots, Res-3 and CBD, instead of MPD.

“We have been going back and forth on this for, I don’t know, I know we postponed it two or three times trying to come up with the final conditions,” said District 3 Commissioner and Chairman Todd Levent, who represents the area. “It’s a lot of condition changes.”

Matt Hawkins, speaking on behalf of his father-in-law and property owner Butch Rawson, said the decision to sell and develop the property came after family hardship, and it had been recommended to limit the buildout.

“It’s been the family farm since Butch bought it in 1963; 55 years he’s farmed it,” Hawkins said. “It’s been a very frustrating zoning for us.

As Butch tries to exit and we try to move on, we’ve had a lot of resistance from folks who are interested in buying it because of the conditions that are going to be put on it.”

“We’d just like to get some closure on this and I’d be there if I could physically do it,” Rawson added.

With the changes, about 35 acres originally included have been removed at the owner’s request and the original developer, Meritage Homes, has pulled out of the deal due to zoning conditions.

“Meritage said, ‘We’re out, you’ve chased us off; we’re done,” said Ethan Underwood, a zoning attorney representing the development. “Now we’ve got Mr. Rawson, he’s been holding the property for 55 years and he’s just saying, ‘Get something so I can try to sell it.”

Underwood expressed frustration at the process.

“Candidly, we’re here with a Res-2 and we’re being asked to do things that no other Res-2 has ever been asked to do; we have 49 zoning conditions with subparts for a Res-2,” Underwood said. “We are begrudgingly here willing to work with the zoning conditions. We’re honestly nervous that someone is going to come in here and not buy it.”

Under conditions, commercial and residential portions of the development will be lined to the Big Creek Greenway and 80 percent of the homes will have basements, which was an issue for Underwood. Levent said repeatedly he did not think the basement condition would hurt the zoning and said commissioners could look at it in the future if that was the case.

“I truly believe we will never hear another word of this because it will all fit with the [topography],” Levent said.

There was some discussion on requiring a county parking lot at the commercial portion of the property, but it was not added.