The owners of Lanier Golf Course have agreed to another extension for Forsyth County’s court-ordered rezoning of their property.
Following a community meeting Tuesday night, the owners agreed to push the deadline back two weeks, from Thursday’s scheduled vote to the county commission’s July 21 meeting, Chairman Brian Tam said.
It’s the second extension of the deadline, which was initially moved from June 26 with hopes of a compromise between owners and neighbors in the more than four-year dispute.
In 2007, owners Jack Manton and George Bagley Jr. sued the county after commissioners rejected their request to rezone the property from agricultural to a master planned district.
The owners had a contract with a developer to buy the site contingent upon its rezoning.
That litigation came to a stop May 12, when Appalachian Judicial Circuit Judge Roger E. Bradley ordered the 172-acre site on Buford Dam Road be given a "constitutional zoning classification" within 45 days.
Owners have agreed to extend the deadline to offset the looming possibility of further lawsuits by neighbors.
The men have offered a compromise that would include donating 110 to 115 acres of the property to the county to use as green space or a golf course.
Several community meetings since June 23 have brought that proposal closer to reality.
The owners agreed to a second extension to work out the details with neighbors if they seemed agreeable to what’s being proposed, Tam said.
"I’ve got to go in there and ask them for more time and show them that we’re negotiating in good faith," Tam told neighbors Tuesday night.
An appeal of a suit by about 23 neighbors against the owners to stop development of the course has thrown a wrench into those plans, he said.
On Friday, their attorney, Bob McFarland Sr., filed the appeal of a May court decision granting summary judgment to the owners.
The case centers on whether the residents have an implied easement.
Tam said the appeal was filed 17 days before the deadline.
"How can you say that we’re going to drop the lawsuits when they just filed an appeal on Friday?" he said, offering the owners’ viewpoint to the neighbors.
Commissioner Jim Boff added that, on the other side, the owners also filed a countersuit to McFarland’s case on Friday.
Without any agreement in writing, one resident said, neighbors don’t feel secure in their position.
Several, including about five of those involved in the appeal, did sign a non-binding document Tuesday. It states that neighbors will drop all litigation against the owners if an agreement is reached.
Signees agreed to the proposition in principle, but want to work out some details including: the zoning of the back portion that would be donated; what triggers the donation; and the 10-year expiration date proposed by owners.
The neighbors also continue to work on drafting acceptable zoning conditions for the front part of the site, which has been slated for rezoning to a master planned development with a conditional use permit for a continuing care retirement community.
The next community meeting is scheduled for Monday night, when residents hope to get feedback from the course owners on some of their requests.
By the deadline, the owners will be looking for the signatures of neighbors agreeing to waive suits in return for the compromise agreement, Tam said.
If any of those involved in the appeal do not sign, that would be "a deal breaker," he said.
Either way, Tam told neighbors he expects this to be the absolute deadline.
"There are so many issues pending in this county, we have to resolve this," he said. "On the 21st, if we don’t have it worked out by then, I don’t know what else I can do."