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Open containers are now allowed at The Collection, and 2 other things to know from the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners meeting
FCN Open Alcohol Container 012519
Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

Allowing open containers at a popular outdoor mall, new tools to bring businesses to the county and a change to the county’s rules for illegal massage businesses were among issues raised at a recent regular meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.

All items were approved by a 5-0 vote, unless otherwise noted.

Now open at The Collection

Shoppers at The Collection at Forsyth can now carry out to-go cups of alcoholic beverages from restaurants on the property.

Commissioners approved the changes to the county alcohol code to allow open containers at “certain commercial properties.”

Under the change, drinks can only come from stores at the mall that serve alcohol; customers can only carry one cup per person; the maximum size is limited to 16 ounces; and drinking from a can, bottle or glass is prohibited.

While the ordinance doesn’t mention The Collection specifically, it does set rules that only apply to sites consisting of 35 acres with at least “400,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space.”

When asked by District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent whether the new rules would apply to other developments, Molly Esswein, an attorney with County Attorney Ken Jarrard’s office, both she and Jarrard said they were not aware of any others.

The Collection is not the only place in Forsyth County where shoppers can take drinks to-go. A previous change allowed for similar rules at Vickery Village and the soon-to-open mixed-use development Halcyon Forsyth.

Bringing in business

Forsyth County now has new tools and procedures for attracting businesses to the county after commissioners adopted a new economic development ordinance.

The plan lays out that the county economic development director – a new position overseen by the county manager, which Vivian Vakili has held since December – will assist in implementing the economic development plan, work with other bodies to bring in business and offer inducements, which are subject to final approval by the county manager and board of commissioners.

The ordinance allows for inducements for targeted businesses, including total or partial waiver of impact fees, fee credits toward the zoning process, acceleration of the zoning process, tax abatements and construction of infrastructure, such as roads, sidewalks, utilities and parking facilities.

Commissioners will have the final decision for all inducements, and businesses will be responsible for informing commissioners annually that they are within parameters of their contract with the county, which could include items such as projected job numbers.

Businesses that don’t comply with sending the report would trigger “any available recoupment remedies under the contract.”

“All of these economic development inducement programs anticipate we’re going to have an agreement with the induced party, and this ordinance makes clear the reporting, the target goals, etc., that will all be in the contract, but the contract will be governed by the ordinance,” Jarrard said.

County resident Kirk Wintersteen said he believed the ordinance would help with property taxes for homeowners by diversifying the tax base and reduce traffic.

“I believe we need to forget Ga. 400, I believe we need to forget MARTA and we need to build a sustainable economy for our own county,” he said. “We just can’t continue to build houses and assisted living forever. We need high-earning professionals and high-paying employers to locate here. We need to reduce the number of citizens who are traveling outside the county for employment.

“We already have the most productive and highest-educated citizens in the state. We just need to facilitate the evolution of our economy.”

Massages rules to get tougher

While commissioners took no action, they also heard an update to changes to the county’s massage and spa ordinance, which is aimed at curbing illicit massage business and tackling crimes such as prostitution and human trafficking.

Esswein said the changes would tighten current rules for individual employees to make sure they are complying with the code.

“It’s issues that law enforcement have encountered and issues that I’ve noticed in prosecuting in magistrate court,” Esswein said. “Some of these things are things we’ve actually encountered and some of them are more of a preemptive approach to kind of tighten up the ordinance and close some loopholes that we noticed.”

Changes include requiring employees to record the type of service provided, records of each instance and the name of the employee who provided the service before taking the customer to a private room and updating and changes in what was done.

Other changes would clarify language about what employees can wear, set rules for employees regarding touching customers with employees’ private areas, and set that no employee can  “intentionally cause the expose of a customer’s private areas.”

“This is the product of an ordinance that we spent a lot of time putting together, and then you sort of put it out in the real world and endorse it for a time,” Jarrard said. “Then, of course, we get feedback from law enforcement, and they tell us, ‘This is just an area where we need help. We need a little clarity.’”

While no members of the Forsyth County’s Sheriff’s Office spoke to the changes, deputies in attendance said they were supportive when asked by commissioners.