Discussion continued Tuesday on what Forsyth County Planning Director Tom Brown called one of the most “contentious” rezoning requests in recent years.
The planning board looked at other options for a potential compromise on a large residential community proposed for Daves Creek Drive.
Residents are concerned over the project’s density and impact on schools, traffic and the area’s character.
No action was taken on the rezoning request during the work session. The board will revisit the matter June 25, when it likely will make a recommendation to the county commission.
At its May 28 meeting, the board postponed a vote after it failed to pass a recommendation to send the commission.
Developer 88 Daves Creek LLC applied in March for a rezoning from agricultural to Res-6, the county's highest density residential zoning, for 378 attached and detached homes.
The plan called for a density of 4.5 units per acre and 70 percent of the housing to be attached.
Facing several neighbors in opposition, the developer presented an alternative plan — a Res-4 zoning for 267 single family homes with a density of 3.2 units per acre — at the May planning board meeting.
Seeing the new plan for the first time, residents requested the developer start the process over so that application could be evaluated.
The planning board voted 2-3 on a motion to recommend the new plan and 2-3 on a motion to recommend Res-3 rezoning with a 2.2 unit per acre density before ultimately voting 5-0 to postpone the matter to its June 25 meeting.
During a work session Tuesday, board member Craig Nolen said he’s been in talks about the possibility of a Res-4 with a density of 3 units per acre.
The board seemed comfortable with its initial votes, said member Joe Moses, who suggested considering a split zoning.
Nolen also said the zoning could be conditioned to require larger lots abutting adjacent properties on Vicki Lane.
Board member Jayne Iglesias added that a condition could specify percentages of lots meeting minimum sizes.
Iglesias, who didn’t vote in favor of either motion May 28, suggested a Res-4 zoning with an increased minimum lot size from the standard 6,000 square feet requirement to 7,000 square feet with a 3 unit per acre density.
“At 3.0 density, using 60 percent of your land for lots, you get 8,712 square feet per lot as a maximum density,” Iglesias said. “Up the lot size, keep the density the same and try to work with everybody … At 7,000, you’re still giving them flexibility, I would think.”
The issue of lot sizes in residential zonings has recently caused more developers to seek higher intensity zonings, such as a Res-4 or Res-6, to avoid the 14,500-square-foot minimum requirement of Res-3, the county’s most common district as identified on its comprehensive plan.
A unified development code change is under consideration to reduce the Res-3 lot size and increase the Res-4 lot size, while decreasing both densities.
The planning board viewed the proposal, which will go to a second public hearing on June 25, as short-term solution to a larger issue.
The board hopes to explore other residential zoning options in more depth in the future.
Also on Tuesday, the planning board reviewed a policy for responding to public outburst at a meeting, an issue that arose during the May 28 hearing for Daves Creek LLC.
Residents in the crowd booed for statements they didn’t like, applauded ones they did and called out "shame on you” when an unappealing motion came to a vote.
Brown said the staff and board needed to develop a way to deal with such outbursts to maintain an environment of respect — for the board and for other audience members.
People in the crowd waiting for another item will be delayed by disruptions, and those waiting to speak for the contentious item may feel uncomfortable.
“As the planning commission, we have a responsibility to make a level playing field,” he said. “There could have been someone in the audience that felt like ‘Boy, I came to speak in favor of this Res-6 application, but I’m not going to go up there and talk about that now. I’ll be called names, maybe they’re going to follow me out into the parking lot and key my car. This is crazy.’”
Brown added that if a zoning went to court, an argument could be made that the planning board was bullied into making a certain recommendation.
He said the board should treat positive and negative outbursts, such as applause or booing, the same, with a warning at first.
In general, the board would follow a three-strike rule for audience members who continue to disrupt a meeting with outbursts.