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County planning holds public hearings for two projects
FCN Forsyth County Administration Building

Members of the Forsyth County planning board recommended denial of two proposed projects, which will next be heard by the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.

The requests and public hearings for the items were discussed at the planning board’s meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 26.

Here’s a look at what was discussed.


Meals by Grace

Amid concerns from neighbors, planning members recommended denial of a conditional-use permit for a north Forsyth non-profit by a 4-1 vote, with District 3 planning member Jessica Thorsen opposed. 

Applicant Fill Ministries, which operates the nonprofit Meals by Grace, a food distribution program has requested a conditional-use permit to build a place of worship (a 5,407-square-foot chapel) with ancillary uses to include a fellowship/meeting hall, pavilion/bathrooms, shed, office, minister’s residence, and food pantry in buildings totaling an additional 29,991 square feet with 104 parking spaces on three acres zoned agricultural district (A1) at 6405 Bennett Road. 

District 4 planning member Nedal Shawkat, who represents the area had previously brought up concerns related to the project, including the intensity of the use and traffic concerns, and said at the meeting he was supportive of the mission of the project but felt it did not fit on Bennett Road. 

“It’s not a question of whether or not this is a good mission, it’s whether or not it belongs right here in this location, and it doesn’t, it’s too intense, and I base that on everything that’s been said,” he said. “It’s my hope that Fill Ministries, Meals by Grace, who obviously have a lot of supporters in the community, can rally those supporters to help them find an appropriate location somewhere in the county.

Thorsen, who voted against the denial, said it was her understanding the only use that would be allowed by the permit and not current standards was bringing food grown off-site to the property and said she felt having a permit would give the county the ability to more closely regulate the site. 

During the meeting, several in-favor and opposed to the permit proposal at the public hearing. 

Tom Hoppe, who was wearing a shirt with a 35 miles per hour speed limit sign, which he said he wears while walking his dogs along Bennett Road, was one of several residents who live on the roadway who was opposed to the project.

Like Shawkat, Hoppe said he wasn’t opposed to the mission, just the location.

“However, I do feel that this piece of property on Bennett Road is just not the piece of property to construct this facility,” he said. “What they’ve proposed is about 35,000 square feet of facilities on an area that’s about three acres, and it’s just too dense a use for the area on Bennett Road.”

Ethan Underwood, a zoning attorney representing Fill Ministries, said the land is near a commercial property used for storing dumpsters and a golf course and could not be rezoned to a commercial use, which had previously been proposed, since the aquaponics use on the property would not be allowed in that zoning. 

“We submit to you, this is the perfect place because where else does one transition when you’re 1,000 feet away from the Ga. 400 corridor,” Underwood said. “It’s surrounded by [commercial business district, or CBD] zonings, catty-corner to CBD zonings and across the street from a very high-traffic golf course.”

Members voted 4-1, with District 3 planning member Jessica Thorsen opposed, to recommend denial of the application.

Conservation subdivision

At the recent meeting, planning board members have aired concerns over a proposed conservation subdivision in north Forsyth, an issue which continued during the recent meeting.

At the meeting, members discussed a plan from applicant Taylor Morrison of Georgia to rezone about 79 acres at 4850 Burruss Road from agricultural district (A1) to single-family residential district (Res-2) conservation subdivision for 93 residential lots with a density of about 1.2 units per acre.

The application is the first to be applied for under new standards for conservation subdivisions, or developments that have more flexibility to build smaller lots in exchange for identifying and protecting open space.

“This is the first application under the [conservation subdivision standards] re-write, and we have now taken it for a test drive,” Shawkat said. “The wheels didn’t quite fall off, but there’s a lot of stuff rattling, and it needs some fixes and that has been made apparent.”

Underwood, who is also representing Taylor Morrison, acknowledge that the first plan had not been well received and showed the board plans for a modified proposal.

“Let’s just lay our cards on the table, the feedback that we got was you all hated it,” he said. “We sat through work sessions and heard comments back, and the design that came forward to you, it was designed to avoid variances. We tried to avoid those, believe it or not, and not have to ask for deviations to the code.”

Underwood said under the plan developers were required to submit plans for what the neighborhood would look like as a typical Res-2 subdivision and the conservation plans.

At the meeting, Underwood showed a new version of the plan, which would require variances, that reconfigured the neighborhood in a way developers hoped was more popular with the board and asked that Forsyth County Commissioners host an additional public hearing when the proposal comes before them.

Underwood asked that if the new conservation subdivision was not approved, that the normal Res-2 proposal would be adopted instead and said time was a factor since developers were trying to close the deal on the land by the end of the year.

Residents in the public hearing said they were concerned with the number of proposals for the property.

Shawkat said he liked the new proposal more than the previous plan but wanted it to be reviewed by county planning staff before approval.

“This application needs to go back through staff. They need to take a look at it. It needs to go back through with the variances. We need to know what we don’t know and make sure we get this right.”

Shawkat recommended denial of the application, which was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Thorsen opposed, but said he was adding recommendations along with the denial.

“Denial seems like the right form of the recommendation, and then the memo explains how it’s kind of a conditional denial,” he said. “This is not saying, ‘Go away.’ This is saying, ‘Let’s back up and get it right.’”

 

Kelly Mill proposal postponed

The community will have to wait a little longer to discuss plans for a proposed neighborhood on Kelly Mill Road on land previously considered for a Hindu Temple.

Near the beginning of the meeting, members unanimously voted to postpone a public hearing until their Jan. 25 meeting for a proposal that would rezone 61 acres from agricultural (A1) and single-family residential restricted (R2R) districts to single-family residential district (Res-3) for a project to build 88 single-family detached homes on 61 acres on Kelly Mill Road.

The project is planned to include a passive recreation area around an existing pond and other amenities.

An application had also been submitted for a conditional-use permit to build a place of worship, a 34,890-square-foot temple with an ancillary structure of 2,025 square feet and a 15,000-square-foot priests’ residence with 143 total parking spaces on 18.2 acres zoned A1, the portion of the property on the north end of Kelly Mill.

Developers previously said the temple proposal would be withdrawn if the neighborhood is approved.