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No decision on golf rezoning
Delay may allow for compromise
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Forsyth County News

The court-ordered rezoning of Lanier Golf Course will wait another week.

Following a public hearing on Thursday, Forsyth County commissioners postponed a decision until June 23.

Chairman Brian Tam said the commission is down to the "11th hour" —facing a rezoning deadline of June 26 — but a compromise to rezone only the front half of the property could be in the works.

"We are under a court order, and I encourage both sides to work together in the spirit of compromise," Tam told the meeting crowd, which largely opposed the owners’ plans for the 172-acre site on Buford Dam Road.

As it stands, 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 to the rear.

The rezoning deadline surfaced after about four years of litigation over the course.

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

The golf course issue began in 2007, when the course 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.

Nearby residents cheered the commissioners’ denial of the rezoning in 2007.

On Thursday night, they returned in a sea of green shirts to ask the commission not to allow development of the site.

The owners’ current plan for the 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.

Neighbors of the site, like David Schore, said what has been proposed is "incompatible" with the rest of the area.

Schore contended a development could cause adverse effects to current residents, including noise, traffic, light pollution and loss of aesthetics, among others.

"The reasons by and large for why it was decided unanimously not to move forward [in September 2007] remain the same," he said, asking commissioners to do so again.

Doug Dillard, attorney for the course owners, said he hadn’t heard any concerns that hadn’t already been addressed in court.

Resident Ken Leach, who noted he does not live on the course, said the commissioners should consider what’s right for the county, not just the developer.

"The owners have a right to sell the property, but the neighbors should have a strong voice in what’s built on the property," Leach said.

Former Commissioner Jim Harrell reminded his colleagues that they are the "people’s advocates."

"Carefully consider the impact on these good citizens," Harrell said.

Robert Slaughter, managing director of Smart Growth Forsyth County, said the local group opposes the proposed rezoning based on its impact to the surrounding community, and especially the environmental impact.

The group asked that appropriate buffers be required to protect the area’s watershed, which is near Lake Lanier.

Slaughter took a more central position than many of the night’s speakers, however, pointing to the possibility of a compromise.

"You have an unenviable task of balancing personal liberty and the right to sell property with its impact on the surrounding communities," he told commissioners.

"You’re dealing with five years of very charged emotions on both sides of the fence. We are very pleased that we have been able to obtain seven days to see if we can get both sides together."

The commission announced that it plans to vote on the issue at a special called work session on Thursday at 5 p.m. in the county administration building.