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Road project hits snags
Deal seen as key part of mall development
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Forsyth County News

County commissioners will try this morning to iron out with developers a construction agreement aimed at accelerating plans for an upscale, mixed-use project in south Forsyth.

The called meeting became necessary after the proposed deal ran into some snags at the commission's work session earlier this week.

Presented by County Attorney Ken Jarrard, the document outlined the basics of Forsyth's intent to begin work on the southern end of Ronald Reagan Boulevard, an infrastructure improvement sought by developers Taubman Centers.

Taubman wants to build an upscale mixed-use development on 164 acres along Ga. 400. The project calls for retail and office space, as well as hotels and residential units.

According to Jarrard, the version Taubman presented included other elements.

"It was my thought that the easement agreement would be fairly concise," Jarrard said at Tuesday's session. "That is, it would give the county permission to go ahead and get on the property. That way the trucks could get moving."

Jarrard said he modified the agreement based on what he understood to be a consensus between Taubman and commissioners: "Enter into an easement agreement that will allow construction activities to commence even if we don't necessarily have all the nuts and bolts of the development in place yet."

The changes to the easement agreement, which details 1.75 miles of road construction between McGinnis Ferry and McFarland roads in south Forsyth, did not suit Taubman representative Mark Putney.

"We certainly would like to reach an agreement with the county on this," Putney told commissioners at the work session. "But this version contains things that are important to the county, and it's missing things that are important for Taubman."

Putney said he was concerned with some missing details in the recent draft.

"There needs to be certainty that the road with all of its parts and pieces is going to get started at a certain time under a certain schedule," Putney said.

Commissioner Jim Harrell countered that such details had no place in the road construction agreement.

"The bits and pieces that are missing are part of the development package we are still trying to get to," Harrell said.

"And they contain the stickiest points of the development agreement."

Jarrard said the purpose of the easement agreement for Ronald Reagan Boulevard was to get started on the basics before the details of the overall development agreement were complete.

"This was the Band-Aid that would have allowed us to do that," Jarrard said.

"[The easement agreement] anticipates that we are working on a development agreement, when we do not have the agreement inked yet. This was supposed to take some of the pressure off negotiations."

Because a bid from Marietta construction company C.W. Matthews expires Sept. 5, both parties agreed to act fast to resolved the impasse.

To restart the bidding process could take months, Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse said.

Commissioners will meet with Taubman at 10 this morning in the county administration building. If the parties can agree on a version of the deal, construction can begin soon.