New fire department vehicles and possible new restrictions for some rental communities move ahead during a recent Forsyth County Commissioners meeting.
At a work session on Tuesday, Jan. 25, topics of discussion included regulations and possible permitting for build-for-rent communities and some new additions to the Forsyth County Fire Department.
All items were approved with a unanimous vote, 5-0, unless otherwise stated.
During the work session, commissioners considered ordinances regarding build-for-rent communities to make sure that the “communities start out on the right foot.”
Commissioners authorized county staff to work with the county attorney’s office to draft a plan for a complementary conditional-use permit, CUP, or rezoning for build-for-rent communities within Forsyth County.
“This is really to make sure that we’re not having … our zonings circumvented … by creating straight-out-of-the-gate where we don’t allow multi-family apartment complexes; we have de facto apartment complexes with townhouse units or … other types of home stock,” said District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson.
Molly Esswein, representing County Attorney Ken Jarrard’s office, presented a few different options to the board regarding build-for-rent community regulations, zonings and standards.
Esswein began by explaining that a build-for-rent community is “a community, or a 15% or larger part of a community, of single-family residences offered for rental only in a professional managed community, including single-family detached homes and townhouses.”
The definition could also include “a single-family residential community in which 20% or more of the units are occupied by tenants rather than owners” or a community that is comprised completely of tenants.
Esswein presented the board with the option to consider establishing a new build-for-rent zoning district or the option to establish a build-for-rent community as a permitted or conditional use in specific zoning districts such as master-planned district, MPD.
During the discussion, District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent said that he believed a conditional-use permit was the best solution.
“To me, a conditional-use permit makes the most sense,” he said. “We can utilize all these bullet points as conditions we may add to it should one come to us.”
Levent said he felt that a CUP would allow commissioners to have a “say-so” in more build-for-rent regulations and standards.
Speaking from personal experience, District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper said that “the first thing that I had happen to me” as commissioner was an issue with a build-for-rent community.
Cooper said the community was full of over 100 single-family homes for rent and that she had “done it as a [conditional-use permit].”
“As far as I know that particular portion for that particular area worked out,” Cooper said. “I’m not saying that I want more of them; I’m not saying that I’d ever want to go through it again.”
Semanson said that at first, she wasn’t sure if a CUP was right, but as the discussion continued, was in favor of the idea.
“A CUP does give us a little more latitude as to its appropriateness,” Semanson said. “I think … the argument is not as strong for it being a guaranteed use; I think we’re more protected.”
Jarrard said that the conditional-use permit was a “nice product” as it did not forbid or ban the build-for-rent product, but a CUP would simply find the right place for them in the county.
Commissioners made a motion to authorize county staff to work with Jarrard’s office to draft a plan for a conditional-use permit for this type of use, and it was approved with a 5-0 vote.
Fire Department additions
As presented by Forsyth County Fire Chief Barry Head, the board approved, with a unanimous, 5-0 vote, the purchase of four new Pierce fire apparatuses for the department.
The purchase included one Arrow Pumper Truck, one Arrow Aerial Tower Truck, one Arrow Heavy Rescue Squad Truck and one Arrow Hazmat Squad Truck. The purchase was estimated at $4,335,801.
During the discussion, Levent noted the current struggle within the national supply chain and asked Head if he thought the equipment would arrive on schedule.
Head said the fire department was scheduled to receive the vehicles in the next 16 to 18-and-a-half months.
“[That] isn’t far off from the normal timeline for an order this big,” Head said.
The purchase of four new fire apparatuses was approved on a time-sensitive basis with a 5-0 vote.
Head also addressed the board to ask for approval for the fire department to apply for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, Grant Program.
The application total is estimated at $1.7 million for the three-year period of performance for the grant.
The federally-funded grant does not require a match and will allow the fire department to hire an additional six new firefighter positions.