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Publix in north Forsyth moves ahead
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After being delayed due to the economic downturn, plans are moving ahead for a new grocery store in north Forsyth.

Forsyth County Commissioners voted unanimously at a meeting on Thursday to approve variances for a shopping center anchored by a Publix grocery store on the northwest corner of the intersection of Bannister Road and Matt Highway (Hwy. 369). The current business at the intersection will not be part of the development.

“The good news is we now have a signed, executed lease with Publix, and Publix is ready to occupy some of the retail [we] will be building,” said Charlie Heard, with Retail Planning Corporation. “The area needs a food store right now. Residents have to drive approximately six-and-a-half miles if they want to go to the Publix grocery store on Keith Bridge Road and [Hwy.] 369, crossing [Ga.] 400. Or, they have to go to Bethelview and Hwy. 20 to shop at the Kroger.”

Commissioners also unanimously approved rezoning 0.28 acres near the project from Master Planned District (MPD) to Commercial Business District (CBD) for parking.

Heard said the county previously approved rezoning 25 acres for the project in 2004. He said the project had received variances and permits in 2007 before plans were postponed due to the economy.

“[That year] was the beginning of the real estate depression/recession,” he said. “Publix said at that time they were going to stop building stores for a while, so we were not able to get them to approve the site to move forward with development.”

The Publix store will be 50,000 square feet, and the shopping center will include outparcels.

The variances requested were reducing an impervious surfaces buffer from 75 feet to 35 feet and a 50-foot stream buffer variance to 35 feet.

When asked about reconfiguring the development to make more space available, Heard said it would not make economic sense. He said developers had already done $500,000 worth of work on the site.

“We’ve got Publix as far forward as we can and still get their trucks around the back,” he said. “On top of that, we’re spending a half million dollars on a retaining wall as opposed to being able to slope down, so we’re spending a lot of money to make this site plan work. Without a variance, it doesn’t work.”