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Commissioners move forward with annexation notification process
Forsyth County Board of Commissioners from left, Todd Levent, Molly Cooper, Chairwoman Cindy Jones Mills, Laura Semanson and Alfred John.

Frustrations regarding city of Cumming annexations have recently prompted the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners to discuss a notification system for residents.

At a work session on Tuesday, Dec. 7, commissioners discussed the possibility of using the county’s notification system to ensure residents are aware when an annexation request for property in the city of Cumming has been requested.

The issue was previously discussed at a work session on Nov. 23 and tied to the Cumming City Council’s public hearing on Nov. 16 for a proposal to rezone 78 acres at 1785 and 1735 Pilgrim Road.

On Tuesday, Molly Esswein, representing County Attorney Ken Jarrard’s office, said it was possible for the county to send letters by mail to all residents living adjacent to or within 500 feet of the annexation applicant. Esswein said that through letters, the county could notify both county residents and city residents.

“The main complaint I keep hearing from citizens is they don’t know [about annexations],” Chairwoman Cindy Jones Mills said.

Esswein said the county could provide parcel numbers attached to any upcoming annexation applications, along with an address if one is provided.

She also explained that the county could set up a portal for residents to find information about past and currently pending annexations through the Geographic Information Services, GIS. Currently, the portal is only accessible with a log-in, but Esswein discussed the possibility of opening the portal to the public.

Esswein said that the portal link could be included in each letter sent to residents.

Commissioners liked the idea of both the letters and the portal, but Mills wondered why the county was not pursuing the idea of signage.

Esswein said that signs would not “be as impactful” and that the county did not “have the enforcement ability there.” With letters, she said, the county could make sure that all residents surrounding each annexation applicant would be informed.

District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent thought that the letters needed to be “straightforward” so that residents would not be confused about the annexation details or process.

Jarrard said that, according to his vision, the letters could act like “class action” letters with questions like: Why are you getting this notice? What do you need to do? What does this mean for you?

The letters could then “explain in layman’s terms” what an annexation is, the state laws regarding annexations and more.

“If the city council wants to be in the county, they need to hear from the county the same way that we hear from the county,” Mills said. “They need to have engagement from our citizens up close and personal the way we do.”

Levent said that he didn’t “want to kick this can down the road” any further and wanted to move the idea forward. He said that the county could always “tweak it” if the notification process needed amending.

“Something needs to … happen now,” Levent said. “Where [citizens] are notified, where a sign goes up now… but to move this thing forward now is very important so that notifications happen if another annexation hits while we’re still deciding what we want to do.”

Mills agreed, saying she believed “that the city council needs to see that we’re serious about [this].”

Commissioners encouraged staff to move forward with the idea and requested that the Cumming City Council members’ contact information be included in each letter for the benefit of the residents.

Other items of note:

During the work session, Levent added an item to the agenda regarding the prohibition of possible tattoo shops in certain areas of District 3, specifically in areas with overlays.

Commissioners have previously discussed removing the “adult-related business” classification for tattoo and body art businesses.

Levent proposed that these areas be included in the prohibition of possible tattoo shops: Shiloh, Union Hill, Post, Bethelview, Castleberry, McGinnis Ferry and Majors roads, The Castleberry Overlay and Atlanta Highway/Highway 9.

Commissioners voted to send this consideration to public hearing which will be scheduled later.

Commissioners will also revisit the idea of electing a county-wide chair position to the Thursday, Dec. 16 meeting with updated and proper documentation from Jarrard.