At a work session on Tuesday, Forsyth County commissioners went over a commercial zoning condition study, discussed a modification to the county’s appeal process and took the first steps toward new meetings both with both commissioners and the county’s planning board.
Commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with changes to the county’s unified development code after staff from the department of planning and community development presented findings of a zoning condition study and look at a map of how properties were zoned along major roads.
Looking at the map, there was discussion on making it a longer process.
“At some point you’re going to hear, ‘Well, so-and-so wants to come here, but they’re not going through a four-five-month process,” said Tom Brown, director of planning and community development.
Several changes to modify permitted uses in zonings to conditional uses were also discussed.
“Staff went through and looked at commercial districts saying, ‘What do we allow today that typically when we see them come through the zoning process, they get the most attention from the community,’” Brown said.
Among those changes, contractor’s establishments would move from permitted to conditional in community business and business park districts, indoor shooting ranges would become conditional instead of permitted community business district and permitted instead of banned in heavy commercial district and open storage yards would be conditional instead of permitted in highway business and business park districts.
Dividing zoning categories, such as lodging services splitting between traditional and extend stay establishments was also discussed.
The matter will go to a public hearing.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard presented what he called a housekeeping measure for the county’s appeal process, which currently requires the county to approve certiorari bonds when appealed.
“The writ of certiorari is a specific means of presenting an appeal to the superior court,” Jarrard said. “Whenever commissioners or the zoning board of appeals act in their quasi-judicial hat, that’s how you appeal their decisions to the superior court.
Jarrard said the way the county handles appeals is not the way many areas tackle zoning appeals, but is required by the code.
Commissioners unanimously approved the item and Jarrard said it would likely be packaged with the other changes.
The commission also discussed a new way of commissioners attending meeting of the county’s planning board to hear from developers on projects.
“What if we were to, instead of attending the whole planning session, what if at the beginning of that work session there was a 30 minute section of the meeting that was the joint [planning and commission] meeting,” Jarrard said.
Commissioners said they will attempt the meetings on a trial basis for six months.
“There’s no reason to put this in the UDC yet, let’s just see if it works,” Jarrard said.
No votes or public participation will be held at the meetings, which are intended to replace developers meeting with commissioners.
“From an optics standpoint, there could potentially be the idea that it is to circumvent the open meetings act or that people may think this is where the deals are being made in the backroom,” District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson said.
One issue was that planning meetings follow commission work sessions, meaning a long work session could run into the planning meeting.
No action was taken on the item, though the first meetings are expected in March.