Forsyth County’s unified development code underwent some changes during a Thursday commission meeting.
Among the moves: Beekeeping will be allowed in all zoning districts; several main roads in commission District 3 will fall under a design overlay; and septic tanks with parts on separate parcels must already be in the ground.
The overlays set design standards for new commercial development.
Capping months of discussion, commissioners voted 4-1, with Chairman Jim Boff opposed, to allow beekeeping in all districts.
Boff voted against the measure after suggesting the addition that all hives must be at least 40 feet from any property line.
The practice was previously prohibited in residential districts under the definition of “livestock” in the code, according to the director of planning and community development.
The issue of beekeeping’s legality landed at the county last fall after a backyard beekeeper received a notice from county code enforcement that his hives were a violation under that definition.
Nicholas Weaver appealed the issue through the county’s chain of command to no avail, but the commissioners took notice and launched the process to change the code in January.
Commissioners considered whether to include the planning board’s suggestion that beekeepers follow best practices as established by the Forsyth County Beekeepers Club, but ultimately decided to leave that out.
Commissioner Patrick Bell said the county shouldn’t involve a nonprofit entity in its ordinance, recommending practices that could change.
“I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be something for them to comply with,” Bell said. “But I don’t think it’s proper for government to force private individuals to comply with any private association’s best management practices.”
The largest code modification made on Thursday extended an overlay district and added two new ones within the county’s southwestern corner.
The commission unanimously approved the establishment of the Atlanta Highway-McFarland Parkway-Mullinax Road Overlay District and the Campground-Post-Castleberry-Shiloh-Pittman-Kelly Mill Road Overlay District.
It also extended the Peachtree Parkway Overlay District down Bethelview Road to where it meets Kelly Mill.
The Atlanta Highway overlay includes minimum standards for exterior architectural design, parking, fencing and landscaping.
The Campground overlay establishes fewer standards on those roads, for fencing and landscaping only.
Commissioners made some changes to the proposal Thursday, including incorporating some planning board suggestions, as well as some from attorney Ethan Underwood, who spoke during the public hearing.
Underwood pointed to the difficulty of meeting the standards for residential development, which was not included in the final overlay language, as well as the possible problems of requiring 70 percent brick façade on all sides.
“The intent of an overlay is to make it pretty,” he said. “If people aren’t seeing it, it shouldn’t be a requirement.”
The commission opted to mandate 70 percent brick exterior on sides visible from the right of way only.
Commissioners also voted 5-0 to change the definition of a septic tank system to state that all parts must have been in the ground and working before a certain date to be allowed on separate parcels.
The change was sparked by the difficulty of stalled residential lots with a communal drainage field that were not able to be platted due to code requirements.
The original draft to accommodate those lots caused an inadvertent concern to neighbors of an east Forsyth man, who was attempting to connect a septic system on separate parcels.
Commissioners also approved 4-1, with Boff opposed, to start a third-party inspection program, which will allow developers to hire a private inspector from a county-approved list.
Previously, this option for building inspections was available only if a county inspector couldn’t complete the work in a timely manner.