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Here’s why commissioners aren’t happy with Cadillac dealership’s annexation request

The next step in an annexation for a proposed Cadillac dealership, approval of a new use for a property on Union Hill Road that had been an issue for nearby residents and the expansion of a mine that will eliminate a proposed 1,000 apartments in north Forsyth were among issues that came up during Forsyth County Commissioners’ regular meeting on Thursday.

All items were approved 5-0 unless otherwise noted.


Cadillac to Cumming

For more than a year, leaders with the city of Cumming and Forsyth County have butted heads over issues surrounding annexations of county land into the city.

Those issues continued on Thursday as Chairwoman Laura Semanson said the county did not “have the grounds by state law to challenge” a request to annex 11 acres that is currently the site of an Ingles grocery store on Buford Highway and adjacent parcel.

Commissioners approved the request by a 5-0 vote and added their own request that the developer has a conversation with the city about adopting standards similar to the county’s Buford Highway Overlay.

“With in no way discouraging the character of the applicant for this property, I think they will be a welcome addition to Forsyth County coming from Hall,” Semanson said. “I do feel that the process of going straight to the city without having a substantive conversation with the county was in complete bad faith, and I don’t attribute that necessarily to the applicant themselves but perhaps some advice they have been given along the way.”

Semanson said the county didn’t have the grounds to challenge the annexation but felt it would hurt the county.

“There’s a real impact to our community when this happens,” she said. “The escape from impact fees [fees paid from developers to the local government to offset impacts on infrastructure] that go to the county puts an additional burden on the taxpayers of this county, which I think is a disgrace.

She alleged other developments had used the annexation process to get zonings that would not meet the county’s standards for aesthetics or density.

Plans for the development include building a new Cadillac dealership, converting the existing grocery store to office or warehouse space and building a third building to be used as a restaurant, retail, hotel or office building.

The property would go from the county’s commercial business district (CBD) zoning to the city’s highway business (HB) district with a conditional-use permit for an auto dealership.

The annexation would not include an adjacent building used by several local companies, including Tam’s Tupelo Restaurant and Socks’ Love Barbecue.

Documents from the county indicate the property would be used by Lake Lanier Cadillac, which announced plans last summer to move into Forsyth County from Gainesville albeit at another location, on Buford Highway. According to online planning documents, a request to rezone land for the previous location was withdrawn in July.

If approved by the Cumming City Council, the development would be the second local Ingles to close in order to open a car dealership.

In December, commissioners approved alternate design standards and a request to build a 79,000-square-foot Audi dealership and 502 parking spaces on 12 acres that is currently the sight of an Ingles at the intersection of Bethelview and Atlanta roads.


Expanding mine

After a handful of postponements to allow all sides to come to an agreement, a new plan will rezone 239 acres on Smith Drive near Ga. 400 from multi-family residential (Res-6) to industrial districts M1 and M2 and mine district (MINE) with variances.

The land is currently owned by the Mashburn Martial Trust and zoned for about 1,000 apartments. Through the plan, neighboring property owner Georgia Stone Products will purchase the land and Forsyth County will affirm the company’s right to use a sand mine on the property which has legal nonconforming status – a zoning that was legal at the time of approval but is not allowed under current standards.

In December, commissioners held a public hearing for the rezoning and approved plans for a ready-mix concrete plant at the business.

Issues between the Mashburns and Georgia Stone go back more than 15 years, when the residential portion was approved. At the time, officials with the mine said the residential units would cause complaints against their business, so commissioners agreed to allow more industrial uses.

In turn, the residential portion felt they did not know what kinds of businesses could be coming in, and commissioners approved moving all the residential units away from the industrial site.

“This has been a tale of these two uses for a long time, and they have been difficult to reconcile as each property owner has reasonably advanced their interests to the use of the land,” County Attorney Ken Jarrard said.

In 2012, commissioners settled issues with both parties related to a 2010 zoning decision. Suits were filed after commissioners approved rezoning 115-acres at the mine for a planned eco-industrial park on Leland Drive.

The rezoning of the residential land was a condition of settlement.

Of the current commissioners, only Todd Levent, who represents District 3, was on the board in 2012 and none were on the board in 2010.


A new use

In recent months, neighbors living near a truck terminal at 755 Union Hill Road, near the intersection with McFarland Parkway, have opposed the business and plans to operate an open storage yard, but a new plan for the area appeared to garner more support for neighbors.

Commissioners approved a request for a conditional-use permit and a sketch plat to operate a minor and major automotive services establishment with 42 parking spaces in an existing 18,000-square-foot building with an additional 15,000-square-foot building on 6.6 acres with variances.

At a previous meeting, commissioners took action to deny requests to amend zoning conditions on the property and for a conditional-use permit with variances to operate an open storage yard with 133 parking spaces for an existing 18,000-square-foot building with 26 parking spaces.

Since then, the board voted to rescind the vote of the previous CUP request at a future meeting and to approve a county-initiated CUP process to operate an open storage yard related to an automobile services establishment and to approve a county-initiated sketch plat process for an automobile services establishment.

“This goes back to a potential zoning that was going to be for a large truck storage area. We denied most of those at one point,” said District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent. “The landowner and their attorney quickly came to us and said, ‘We’ve got a different user that may be interested in the property, but they have a strict timeline.’”

Levent said property that has been denied a request cannot come back for a year, so the recension was a way to move the project along.

The potential user closing on the land was contingent on the approval, but Jarrard said if they didn’t close, the previously sought use would not be allowed and the current plan is for no trucks on the property.