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Mixed-use timelines concern Forsyth County planning board
Worried commercial will not be built
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Three master planned district, or MPD, zoning applications, were reviewed at a Forsyth County planning commission work session Tuesday, and with the category seemingly on the rise, board members’ concerns and plans appeared across the board.

The three applications span the county, from 29 acres in north Forsyth to 171 acres in east Forsyth and 70 acres near Cumming. The 171 acres involves four that would be combined with a larger application already being reviewed by the Board of Commissioners.

Total, the three applications would bring 591 residential lots and about 87,500 square feet of commercial space.

Board members largely had the same concern regarding each application: that the residential portion of the development would be built and no commercial buildings would end up coming in.

Current MPD standards require a development to be 25 percent commercial, 25 percent residential and 20 percent open space.

This, District 4 board member Bettina Hammond said, is to alleviate the concern “that the residential portion will be developed without the commercial component.”

The 25 percent commercial space requirement does not guarantee stores and businesses will, in fact, move in; the condition only requires that builders have the space dedicated for commercial use.

District 5 board member Robert Hoyt said this concerns him.

“We’ve had MPDs where the commercial never got built,” he said. “I think an MPD is supposed to all be one plan — not ‘part now and part whenever.’ But if there’s no developer, as we’re seeing on some of these commercial [portions], then should it be an MPD? I have real troubles with this.”

Hoyt discussed a previous development on Buford Highway (Hwy. 20) where the Honda and Kia dealerships now sit.

“The land was cleared many years ago, and for many years, there was a desert which pretty much had a sign that said, ‘watch this space,’” he said. “I’m afraid we’re going to have this [problem] here and it’s an issue of real concern, but I don’t know how to resolve it.”

The BOC is struggling with the same issue, as well as the problem that even when commercial does come in, the residential portions of MPDs are already extremely dense.

Because of this, the county has recently discussed MPD standards and its concerns that such developments could abandon the commercial portion and use the increased density.

“The idea of deed restricting the front of [the MPD] to commercial sounds good, however it doesn’t solve the problem of if it doesn’t get built in the next decade or two, you’ve got a much denser residential area than would be allowed if this was simply a residential [zoning,]” Hoyt said.

In a previous case from Serene Investments, the planning board conditioned the developer could build no more than half of the proposed units until he came in with 10,000 square feet of retail, after which he would be allowed to build the other residential units.

The planning board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 25, during which they may vote to approve or deny the applications.

Their vote serves as a recommendation for the Board of Commissioners, which will ultimately decide the fate of the rezoning requests. The proposals are scheduled to appear before the BOC on Nov. 17.

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Ridge 19 LLC

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WHAT: Ridge 19 LLC is seeking to rezone about 30 acres from a restricted industrial district, or M1, to MPD for 87 residential lots and proposed commercial buildings totaling 36,500 square feet with 186 parking spaces.

WHERE: On Sandy Court, just east of Ga. 400 and less than a mile north of the intersection with Cross Roads Road.

PLANNING STAFF: Not supportive, saying the concept plan does not represent a true mixed-use development because the commercial and residential aspects are not integrated.

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Lennar Georgia Inc.

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WHAT: Lennar Georgia Inc. wants to rezone about 4 acres from agricultural district, or A1, to MPD. The application and rezoning is associated with the total development of 320 residential lots on 167 acres.

WHERE: On Lanier Golf Club in east Forsyth.

PLANNING STAFF: Planning staff is supportive if the Board of Commissioners approves a concurrent application for 320 lots on 167 acres to amend land conditions. The applicant requested a variance to eliminate the commercial aspect throughout the 4 acres.

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14905 Hopewell Group LLC

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WHAT: Hopewell Group LLC is requesting to rezone almost 70 acres from an agricultural district, or A1, to MPD to create 184 residential lots with a density of 2.65 units per acre and 51,000 square feet of commercial buildings with 255 parking spaces.

WHERE: North of Canton Highway (Hwy. 20) on the west side of Dr. Bramblett Road, just north of the intersection with Spot Road Connector.

PLANNING STAFF: Citing a lack of integration between commercial and residential uses, planning staff is not supportive due to the rezoning looking more like two separate residential and commercial zonings than an MPD.