FORSYTH COUNTY — County commissioners on Thursday approved a slight change to Forsyth’s unified development code to address non-conforming lots.
After holding a public hearing on the matter, during which no one spoke, commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the change.
It will allow owners of non-conforming lots to be protected when their lot’s size is reduced after some of it is sold to the county or condemned for projects such as road improvements, said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.
“I think a couple of the commissioners have been contacted in respect to property owners who have resisted giving up, for instance, necessary right of way for fear that if they do that, the lot size will therefore become less than what the minimum is for whatever use they were doing on the property,” he said.
“If in fact there is something cataclysmic that happens on the property, like for instance the use burns down below 50 percent of its value, they would not be able to use that property again for that use because at that point, they are illegal.”
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said she proposed the change based on a specific situation with a small neighborhood in her north Forsyth district.
She said the property was created many years ago as a mobile home park. In recent years, the road has fallen into disrepair.
“We can’t get fire, we can’t get public safety, we can’t get a school bus [into the neighborhood],” Mills said. “I don’t even know how the people get in and out of it because it is so bad.”
The change to the UDC arose, she said, as a result of some of the property owners’ concerns about lot size.
“We found a solution for them [for the road problem], but the concern by a couple of the people was, ‘If we sign over our right of way, then it’s going to put our lot below. And if our trailer were to catch on fire then … we’ll have nowhere to live because we can’t put one back.’”
Commissioner Jim Boff, who cast the lone vote against the change, voiced concerns over limiting improvements in some areas.
“That in doing so, we maybe also are allowing large areas of the county with very small houses to continue rather than upgrade or be improved in some way,” he said.
With the change in place, Jarrard said owners with issues such as those in the neighborhood Mills had worked with will be able to continue using or rebuilding a structure on the property if they can prove to planning staff that “they had a legal use and if they can demonstrate that the legal nonconformity is the product of … a sale to an entity with condemnation.”
The code change also protects owners who have their property condemned in government attempts to secure right of way.