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Plan may revive development
Overlook sits on old landfill site
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Forsyth County News
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Also on Tuesday, the Forsyth County commission:

• Voted against amending the local small business initiative to include businesses with more income or employees. Commissioners Brian Tam and Patrick Bell supported the measure in the 2-3 vote.

• Accepted an offer by SunTrust Bank to pay $75,000 in lieu of donating 2 acres for public safety purposes.

• Approved Post Road Library architectural design services, which will come from a state grant.

• Agreed to buy two Ford Crown Victorias to replace totaled sheriff’s office patrol cars at a cost of about $84,121. Insurance money received from a wreck involving one of the vehicles wasn’t set to go toward the purchase. If possible, however, commissioners directed staff to use the money for that purpose.

• Decided to change the terms for planning commission and zoning board of appeals appointments to align with that district’s commissioner, and increase the tree protection commission term from two to four years. The matter will go to public hearings before final approval.

• Extended a lease with Lakeland Southern Baptist Church from June until the end of 2010. In February 2009, the county bought the church site on Sharon Road to develop it into a senior center. It agreed, however, to lease it back to the church while the congregation sought a new home.  

• Note: All votes were 5-0 unless noted otherwise.

— Alyssa LaRenzie
A plan has emerged that would give new life to an abandoned subdivision built on a former landfill in southeastern Forsyth County.

The Overlook at James Creek was found in March 2007 to have methane levels “above the explosive limit emanating from the landfill,” according to a letter from the Environmental Protection Division advising the developer to clean up the site.

The developer filed for bankruptcy in April 2007, leaving no one to pay the county for soil and erosion fines that now total more than $2 million.

The methane problem and growing environmental fines have kept anyone from wanting to purchase the 157-lot subdivision, which sits atop the former Miller-Trammel Road Landfill off Melody Mizer Road.

Some homes have been built in its first phase, but no one lives there, according to county staff.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the county, like everyone else, shied away from the property in case that meant responsibility for it.

“The Overlook is a greenpipe subdivision that is in various stages of foreclosure by various banks, although the banks are a little bit hesitant to actually acquire ownership for fear of fighting off a liability,” Jarrard said.

But Mike Dye, principal of Edge City Properties, recently approached the county with the proposal discussed at Tuesday’s work session.

Dye has offered to buy the property, clean it up and finish building the subdivision in return for the county waiving the fines.

He has acquired the security interest on phase two of the project from the failed lender, but doesn’t want to get involved in remediation without the county’s assistance.

“It’s a nice, well-located project, but nothing’s being done on it and it needs to be fixed,” Dye said.

“Obviously, I’m in it to make a profit, but I am motivated to see that the situation is resolved with as minimal impact on the environment as possible.”

Commissioners agreed Tuesday to set up a meeting with Dye, county staff and Commissioner Jim Boff, whose district includes the site.

Chairman Charles Laughinghouse was in favor of hammering out an acceptable deal to get the site cleaned up.

“Right now, we’ve got a property accruing $3,000 a day in fines with a landfill sitting on it that nobody is going to come in and develop,” he said.
“What we’ve got is somebody who’s willing to come in and take the risk to do that, which means the county doesn’t have to do it.”

Boff said he was for the idea “in spirit,” but wanted to make sure the county gets a fair shake.

“I’d just like some confirmation that we’re not reducing fines way beyond what we need to,” he said.

The commission discussed getting an engineer to sign off on an estimate for cleaning up the property, which Dye said his camp had placed between $5 million and 22 million.

Commissioners also expressed concerns that someone signed off on the property in the first place.

“I don’t ever remember hearing anything or seeing anything on documents that said there was a landfill there,” Laughinghouse said.