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Stream buffers exchanged for water testing
Quality under close watch
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Forsyth County News

Other action

Also Thursday, the Forsyth County commission:

• Approved the hiring of Tim Merritt as deputy county manager. A former assistant city manager in Gainesville, Merritt will begin work Monday.

• Gave final approval to restructured compensation. Effective in 2011, commissioners will receive a flat base salary that reflects the cost of their current pay-per-meeting model. It is not a raise, but a change in the way commissioners are paid. Chairman Charles Laughinghouse voted against the measure, which passed 4-1, saying the current model encourages productivity.

• Authorized spending money from the county jail construction fund on needs at the current facility. Sheriff Ted Paxton said about $150,000 is needed to bridge software between the jail and the courts. The fund has about $400,000, he said. Voters defeated plans to build a new jail in 2008.

• Issued a conditional use permit to T-Mobile South for a cell tower on commercial property near Brookwood Road and Peachtree Parkway.

• Postponed until April 15 a decision on amended zoning conditions for a gas station at a planned shopping center on Peachtree Parkway. Decision came after a public hearing in which nearby residents shared their concerns.

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

-- Alyssa LaRenzie

As Bob Slaughter put it, Forsyth County plans to hold one developer's "feet to the fire" -- or maybe some hot water.

The president of Smart Growth Forsyth asked that the county follow up on granting stream buffer variances to developers.

His request came as the county commission considered plans for a shopping center in west Forsyth.

In lieu of stream buffers, the Sofran Group will be required instead to test the water quality of its stormwater management system.

The developer of the Kroger-anchored shopping center at Post and Kelly Mill roads will be the first to report back to the county on its water facility.

And it won't be the first to receive freedom from stream buffer requirements in exchange for a water quality system.

"We have listened to some wonderful presentations of how folks are going to preserve the water, make it better, cleaner, all those sorts of things," Commissioner Jim Harrell said.

"We accepted a number of those, but I don't think the board has really received any data from those that have been done."

To assist with future stream buffer issues, Harrell added a condition that the developer test the water quality quarterly for two years after the stormwater system is completed.

In a 5-0 vote, commissioners then approved the rezoning of an additional 9.6 acres near the site from residential to commercial.

They also voted unanimously to allow both that lot and the previous 21-acre parcel to have variances allowing deliveries any time, reducing the required minimum of restaurant tenants and eliminating all buffers.

Stream buffers, intended to protect water from pollutants, can be eliminated in cases in which the planned development wouldn't be feasible, according to Forsyth County's unified development code.

The rules also require any developer eliminating the buffer to provide an alternative plan.

Jim Hamilton with Southern Civil Engineers is designing the water quality management facility for the 92,803-square-foot area of development.

He said the design exceeds minimum state runoff requirements by 13 times.

The plan also could reduce total suspended solids, the standard for water quality testing, by 40 percent, he said.

Slaughter said the county should check for all five criteria recommended in the "blue book," a well-known manual on the subject.

"Let them prove how good they really are and measure before they build and after they build," he said. "Have them measure all five things."

Slaughter said Smart Growth views this retail center as a necessary development, but added that standards are there for a reason.

In this case, the organization factored in determining a suitable alternate environmental plan.

"We're proud to have worked with Smart Growth on this," Hamilton said. "Hopefully, it will provide the county with better information in the future."