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Planning board OKs center again
Item heads back to commission
Cove 1 WEB
An old structure sits on the site of a proposed community center in the Crystal Cove neighborhood, seen in November. Bridgepoint Community Networks request for a youth center was approved by the county planning board Tuesday. - photo by Autumn McBride


For the second time in three months, the Forsyth County Planning Commission has put its stamp of approval on a proposal that has stirred up contention for a northeastern Forsyth neighborhood.

During a meeting Tuesday night, the planning board agreed 3-1 to send a request by Bridgepoint Community Networks to the county commission with a recommendation of approval. Planning board member Joe Moses voted against the measure. Member Jim Kelleher, who attended by phone, abstained from voting because of his absence.

Bridgepoint has requested a conditional use permit to operate a faith-based, nonprofit club or lodge for youth in the Crystal Cove Shores neighborhood. Plans call for a 2,000-square-foot facility on a half-acre lot at Crystal Cove and Thunder trails.

The community is off Hwy. 53 near where Forsyth, Dawson and Hall counties meet at Lake Lanier.

The board of commissioners is expected to take up the matter in August.

Before the vote, the planning board heard from those for and against the center.

Joe Stauffer, who represents residents opposing the facility, said the center is really a church and does not comply with the county’s unified development code. He also said the organization will do addiction recovery at the facility, though it does not have a proper zoning for such work.

He said the issue is likely headed to court.

“I guess what I can’t understand is we have all these people in opposition … and you guys have just beaten us down and beaten us down and for what? To put a church in the middle of a subdivision?” he said. “We don’t understand. We’re prepared and we’re going to take this to Superior Court. Our record is complete. We don’t need your approval or disapproval, but we’re ready.”

David Richard, a former county commissioner who from 2005 to 2008 represented the district including Crystal Cove Shores, spoke in favor of the proposal. He noted there has been more speculation about what the center will not be than what it actually will.

“One week it’s going to be a church, the next week it’s going to be a community center,” Richard said. “If this goes on any longer what’s it going to be, a rendering plant?”

Richard said he thinks the center is good for the Crystal Cove community.

“There’s a problem in that area that is being addressed,” Richard said. “And to make all sorts of accusations and attempts to dig up dirt on people who are actually trying to do something good in that area is about as despicable as I’ve seen in this county.”

Local attorney Ethan Underwood, who spoke on behalf of Bridgepoint, explained what the group’s plans do and do not include. He noted that Bridgepoint began working with youth in the neighborhood several years ago. It plans to continue holding Bible study groups, tutoring and cooking classes at the center.

Underwood also said the facility has been designed to benefit residents of Crystal Cove and that people from other areas will not be bused in.

The center will not be used for drug rehabilitation, Underwood said, and it will not be a halfway house or a church.
Wayne Page, who lives on Thunder Trail, asked the board to require Bridgepoint to comply with certain conditions if the request was approved. Those conditions included not using any permanent or temporary signage on the lot, 50-foot setbacks, no lighting of any outdoor athletic activities and no amplified outside sound.

The planning board first approved the request in May, after hearing support and opposition for the proposal from neighbors. The county commission, which has the final say on such matters, decided in June to send the request back to the planning board because it had been improperly advertised.