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Pockets of north Forsyth picked
Planners want labels pulled for development
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Forsyth County News

After a few changes, a partial update of Forsyth County's comprehensive plan is moving up the chain of command.

The revision will act as a bridge between the current plan and a full update, which is due to the state by February 2012.

After hearing residents' concerns Tuesday night, the Forsyth County Planning Commission voted 4-0 to ask that two commercial nodes marked as needing special attention be removed from the draft map.

The commission, which will make the final decision, is expected to hold a public hearing on the proposed update Jan. 15.

The comprehensive plan serves as the county's guide for growth. The nodes are in the Coal Mountain community and the area around Jot Em Down Road at Ga. 400 in north Forsyth.

Before the vote, Bobby Thomas, who lives and works in Coal Mountain, said he hadn't found anyone in his community that feels additional policies, codes or restrictions on economic development are needed there.

"I don't know where the inference for that is coming from, but it's certainly not coming from the community," Thomas said.

"At the last public hearing it was stated by the staff that this would be entirely voluntary ... and I'm asking if it's voluntary that we be opted out of being an area of special interest."

Thomas also criticized county policies that say the local governing body shows a "pro-business mind-set."

"I did get a laugh out of that because whoever wrote it has obviously never applied for a permit to develop a commercial piece of property and build a commercial building and get a business permit in this county," he said.

"From the county's standpoint, they may think they have accommodating codes and policies. But from a business standpoint, I can tell you that's not the case."

The board split on a measure made by board member Mary Helen McGruder to remove a statement from the "issues and opportunities" document included in the partial update.

The phrase in question reads "continued rapid increase in population could necessitate adjustments of county regulations which may lead to future moratoria on development while code and policy modifications are being completed."

After concerns were raised during a public hearing last week, the phrase was reworded from saying the increase "could lead to further restrictions and moratoriums on development."

Vanessa Bernstein, a senior long-range planner for the county, said the change was made to clarify that a moratorium would not be instituted "without reason and would be based on the need for our code and regulations to be updated."

While Planning Commission Chairwoman Pam Livesay seconded the motion, members Brant Meadows and Barry Russell voted against it.

Because it lacked a majority vote, the measure died.

The board did agree 4-0 to send the draft with the approved changes to the county commission with a recommendation for approval.

Planning board member Bettina Hammond did not attend the meeting.