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Smart Growth preps for legal challenge
Wants court to toss decision on overlay
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Forsyth County News


Smart Growth Forsyth is raising money to mount a legal challenge against a recent planning board decision involving a potential retailer at an outdoor shopping mall.

The organization has collected $6,700 for legal costs, with a goal of $10,000, director Bob Slaughter said at the group's meeting Tuesday night.

Nearby businesses, homeowners associations and residents have been the main donors.

Unlike the appeal Smart Growth unsuccessfully sought through county channels, Slaughter said the challenge in Superior Court would seek to erase rather than reverse the decision to allow the store to have less brick.

A court ruling in the group's favor, Slaughter said, would invalidate the planning board vote.

"The essential grounds are that the planning commission was given an authority that ... far exceeded what the Georgia public law enabling act provided that the planning commission was actually authorized to do," Slaughter said.

At issue is the Jan. 25 approval of an aesthetic tweak for Academy Sports Outdoors, which plans to open a store at The Avenue Forsyth.

The Peachtree Parkway Overlay District requires the exterior of stores at the south Forsyth mall be 75 percent brick, stone and glass, while Academy's plan called for 45 percent.

Smart Growth wanted to appeal the decision, but the county couldn't hear it since no appeals process exists in the overlay process.

Unlike all other votes, the planning board currently has the final say on alternative design reviews, which are written for the Peachtree overlay and the Castleberry-Bethelview Crossroads Overlay District.

These decisions are not required to get approval from the county commission.

The looming legal challenge aside, the group has also asked the county commission to review the overlay language in the county's unified development code.

In February, commissioners discussed adding an appeals route for the Peachtree Parkway overlay. The matter requires two public hearings before a change can be made.

Also at its Tuesday meeting, Smart Growth discussed its appeal of a Zoning Board of Appeals approval of a variance on stream buffer setbacks for The Orchards of Brannon Oak Farms.

The developers of the planned subdivision were granted permission to include patios on six lots.

The request for an appeal will go to the county commission.