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New wrinkle emerges in golf rezoning
Vote on issue set for tonight
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Forsyth County News

More than four years of legal wrangling over Lanier Golf Course could come to a close tonight, as the Forsyth County commission votes to rezone the site.

The course owners, neighbors and county officials have been huddling this week in hopes of finding a compromise that most everyone can live with.

Commissioners face a court-ordered rezoning deadline of Sunday for the 172-acre site on Buford Dam Road in east Forsyth.

On May 12, Appalachian Judicial Circuit Judge Robert E. Bradley ordered the property be given a "constitutional zoning classification" within 45 days.

The golf course issue began in 2007, when the owners sued the county after commissioners rejected their request to rezone the property from agricultural to a master planned district.

The owners, Jack Manton and George Bagley Jr., had a contract with a developer to buy the site, contingent upon its rezoning.

During evenings this week, the owners have camped in a back room of the Forsyth County Administration Building while neighbors awaited details in the commissioners’ meeting area.

The residents remain concerned. But following an emotional public hearing June 16, the mood during talks this week has been relatively calm and civil.

Only discussion took place during the meetings. The final decision will be up to commissioners during their meeting at 5 tonight.

Tuesday night, County Commissioners Brian Tam and Jim Boff, along with resident Robert Slaughter, walked back and forth between the two groups, looking for a solution.

"As much as you have some apprehension about what [the owners] might do, there are a number of lawsuits against them, which they want to go away too," Tam told course neighbors.

"They are willing to get you comfortable if you get them comfortable."

Various residents near the course have launched suits over the course issue, which could be dropped in exchange for an acceptable compromise.

Originally scheduled for a rezoning vote June 16, commissioners postponed the issue with the possibility of a proposal to rezone only the property’s front half while leaving the rear open.

That option has become a focus of talks between the two groups throughout this week.

For the rezoning vote, the commission has advertised that the course could be rezoned in two parts: a master planned district on the front half and a residential district in the back.

This week’s negotiations, however, have raised the possibility that up to 100 acres in the back half could be left open or even donated to the county.

In exchange, the course owners would receive a higher density for development along Buford Dam Road.

"Density for acreage," Tam told the neighbors. "What do you want to do?"

The owners’ current plan for the front site is a senior living community, which would include 429 assisted living units, 50 hospice beds and 150 skilled nursing beds on the proposed master planned district zoning, with a conditional use permit for a continuing care retirement community.

Some commercial uses have also been proposed for the front piece of the property.

The back residential section, about 80 acres, could have 171 homes in a Res-3 zoning.