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Open alcohol containers could soon be allowed at The Collection, and 3 more things from this week's Forsyth County Board of Commissioners meeting
FCN Open Alcohol Container 012519
Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

Allowing open containers of alcohol at a popular outdoor mall, what to do with county-owned land, senior housing and short-term rentals were among items taken up on Tuesday for the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’s work session.

All votes are 5-0 unless otherwise noted.

Veterans Memorial property

For years, the county had owned a site once proposed for the Forsyth County Jail. Since the plan was rejected by voters, the county has been looking for a use.

At the meeting, commissioners heard three proposals ranging in intensity for the area but held off on a decision until a report is completed on county facilities.

“We looked at three options to develop the property in a fashion where it supported office uses, potentially for the county’s facilities and things of that nature,” said Mark Bond with Hayes, James and Associates, the firm hired to do the study. “The property has a stream on it, and it has significant topographical relief.

“So, when you look at the layouts, it doesn’t always come through, but there is a significant amount of grading that will occur and there are streams to be crossed and things of that nature on the property.”

The first option was considered the least disruptive and featured two three-story buildings: a south building with a 15,000-square-foot footprint and west building with a 50,000-square-foot footprint.

The second use is more intense and would feature three buildings. While the western building would have the same features as the previous option, the south building would only be two stories and have a 45,000-square-foot footprint and a two-story north building would have a 30,000-square-foot base.

The final option, considered “the most disruptive plan of all three options,” would have the same south building as the above proposal with a three-story north building with a 30,000-square-foot footprint and a three-story west building with a 62,500-square-foot footprint.

The footprints of each building multiplied by the number of stories gives the total square footage of each building.

The county bought the 33-acre site for $7 million in July 2007 as a possible home for a new jail and the sheriff’s office headquarters. Construction of the projects was part of a bond referendum that voters rejected in 2008.

The county has struggled since to find a use for the land.

“This is what I [originally] ran on,” said District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent, who was first elected in 2010. “This is the craziest purchase we ever did, but it is what it is now and we’ve got to figure out what to do with it, and that’s what they’re trying to help us do.”

Levent pointed out none of the current commissioners were on the board when the purchase was approved.

Senior housing

The county could soon have new rules for building in-senior housing residential districts.

Commissioners voted to send a proposal for changes to single-family residential districts Res 2 and Res 4 while removing proposals for Res 2.

For Res 3, the standards would be a minimum lot size of 9,500 square feet with an average of 14,500 square foot, a maximum density of 1.8 units per acre, 20 percent open space and lot width of at least 60 feet with an average of 70 feet.

For Res 4, those standards would be a minimum lot size of 8,500, a maximum density of 2.5-4.5 units per acre, 25 percent open space and a minimum lot width of 60 feet.

For both, a minimum 5 percent of any planned subdivision with 50 or more units would be used for common area.

The standards will next go to the county’s planning commission before coming to commissioners for final approval.

Short-term rentals

One of the most discussed issues by commissioners in 2018 was short-term rentals through services like Airbnb and VBRO.

In August, commissioners approved starting the process to change the county’s unified development code to require prospective renters to apply for and be granted a conditional-use permit to operate as a short-term rental before 2020.

Commissioners discussed making the plan a reality on Tuesday.

Under the proposal, a permit would be needed for residences doing rentals for up to 30 days. Rentals over 30 days will not require the permit.

The permits will not be given to residents in neighborhoods and will go into effect in 2020.

The county is also currently looking at software to monitor such rentals.

No action was taken at the meeting.

In recent years, services like Airbnb have become a popular way for people to find residents who want to rent out a room or their house for short-term stays as a more personal and appealing — and often cheaper — choice over a hotel.

Commissioners have held discussions on the rentals dating back to late 2016, when neighbors living near the homes raised issues with trash, noise and traffic.

According to officials with Airbnb, Georgia hosts earned a combined $158 million in supplemental income in 2018 and welcomed 1.1 million guests.

Per the data, $781,000 was earned by Forsyth County owners, who rented to more than 5,300 guests.

Alcohol at The Collection

Shoppers at The Collection may soon no longer have to worry about getting in trouble for open alcohol containers purchased from restaurants.

Commissioners approved having staff and County Attorney Ken Jarrard’s office start the process to amend the alcohol code to allow open containers, similar to rules for the upcoming Halcyon Forsyth development.

It was pointed out that the roads in the development are private roads, meaning no one with a drink would be able to cross county roads.

Commissioners said the change would only apply to The Collection and not other facilities with similar zonings.