Also during a work session Tuesday afternoon, Forsyth County commissioners:
• Agreed to release information about the county’s excise taxes on hotels and motels for part of a class-action suit, in which Georgia municipalities are seeking taxes owed from online booking companies.
The suit contends the firms have paid the taxes based on the discounted hotel rates, rather than the normal prices offered to customers.
• Received a report on the county’s comprehensive plan update, which will next go to a public hearing before the planning board Oct. 25.
Commissioners discussed the future development map, which provides a policy guide for land growth.
Commissioner Patrick Bell announced his intent to suggest changing the lone remaining lowest-density areas, in the county’s north end, to the largely prevailing designation of “suburban residential.”
• Approved a contract with Georgia Power for about $565,000 in needed electrical upgrades for the Forsyth County Water Treatment Facility to be paid from the water and sewer fund.
• Accepted a grant of more than $17,000 from nonprofit Age Well Forsyth for kitchen equipment in the Center at Charles Place.
• Set the list of more than 200 county surplus items to be auctioned Oct. 29 at 843 Canton Hwy.
Note: All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.
-- Alyssa LaRenzie
A recent land-use decision in a north Forsyth subdivision has led county commissioners to consider some changes to the unified development code.
Commissioners voted 4-1 on Tuesday to advance some code modifications changing the definition of a church and allowing expired covenants to factor into decisions on zoning applications.
Commissioner Patrick Bell voted against the measure, which will go to two public hearings before final approval.
According to a memo from County Attorney Ken Jarrard and Planning Director Tom Brown, the proposed changes came about following a recent decision "where concerns were raised as to whether a particular faith-based community center was appropriate for placement in a particular subdivision."
Though Jarrard declined to cite the specific example, the commission’s most recent vote fitting the criteria was a conditional use permit for Bridgepoint Community Networks to build a 2,000-square-foot center in the Crystal Cove Shores subdivision.
In the situation referenced in the memo, the subdivision’s covenant restricting uses in the neighborhood had expired.
The county’s code currently allows the commission to consider valid covenants.
However, the change would allow expired covenants to also fall under the review of whether the proposed land use is consistent.
"They could just be one additional facet that you could legitimately review, discount it if you want to, or if you want to put a lot of weight into it, or some weight, you could,"Jarrard said.
Commissioner Jim Boff said a covenant having reached an expiration date doesn’t leave it with "no significance whatsoever."
By comparison, Boff noted that an expired passport can be used to register to vote.
Bell, the lone dissenting vote, said Georgia law allows covenants to expire after 20 years.
"There’s a reason for that," Bell said. "I don’t know why this board would want to consider using something that’s expired."
The other change raised following a recent land-use decision was the definition of a church.
In the case of Crystal Cove, neighbors opposing the center had said it would actually be used as a church, which would not be allowed on the property due to county code.
A review of the definition of "church" led county officials to realize it’s "not as optimal as it could be," Jarrard said.
"The definition of a church in our ordinance looks at what it was designed and constructed for, not what it is currently used as," he said.
The language currently defines a church as "a building or structure, or groups of buildings or structures, that design and construction are primarily intended for conducting organized religious services."
The modification would change the second half to "are used for conducting organized religious services."
Both changes will be subject to separate public hearings before the planning board and commission before a final vote.