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New zoning districts proposed at recent BOC work session
FCN Forsyth County Administration Building

Commissioners heard a proposal for new specialty zoning districts from staff at the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners work session on Tuesday, June 22. A previous public hearing was held for this topic on April 1.

One of the three proposed districts is the previous master-planned district (MDP) with a few changes to community standards such as lighting, signage, fencing, landscaping and more.

County staff proposed two new districts: mixed residential district (MRD) and mixed-use center district (MCD). MRD is strictly a residential district while MCD can be a “mix of commercial, office and light industrial and it may or may not have a residential component.”

“The MRD would be exclusively residential,” said Vanessa Bernstein-Goldman, deputy director of the department of planning. “And really it’s to offer design flexibility in terms of product type. There could be … townhouses, condos, detached and multi-family [houses].”

Bernstein-Goldman explained that she and staff took a look at surrounding areas for development inspiration, particularly in Alpharetta, to focus on “Class A office space.”

“What we heard from [commissioners] is that you would like to have a district that’s really focused on a mix of maybe not just commercial, which we’ve seen in the past, but really getting some Class A office and potentially some hotel space as well,” Bernstein-Goldman said.

As for MRD and MCD, both districts were proposed to have a minimum requirement of 30 acres with at least 20% of the space being left for open space. A quarter of the open space also has to have an active community space as well as another quarter saved for an undisturbed area.

Both zonings would also have a 25-foot undisturbed buffer based on any adjacent zoning. Community standards must also be met and any amendments to zoning requirements would have to be considered and approved by the county commissioners. A pre-application meeting with the district’s commissioner would also be required for any wannabe developer.

Bernstein-Goldman said that the county wanted to encourage redevelopment in areas where deterioration had occurred.

If deterioration has occurred on a site, a developer can include “up to two residential units per acre on areas identified as deteriorated, but only if residential was part of the original proposal.”

The maximum density for both MRD and MCD will be six units per acre, keeping in line with other zoning districts across the county. However, with the incentive, developers could potentially have eight units per acre “but only for the areas that are considered deteriorated.”

Chairwoman Cindy Jones Mills said that she was concerned about the “deterioration requirement” and wondered if the county had anything in place that might protect against people intentionally letting land deteriorate to qualify for the incentive.

Bernstein-Goldman said that the county would be requiring an inspection report of proposed properties and that developers would “have to provide written and photo documentation about the deteriorated conditions.”

District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper said that she was worried about the “subjectivity” of the word “deterioration.”

Bernstein-Goldman explained that the county has a list of what might constitute as a deterioration, such as “uninhabitable, unsafe or abandoned structures, site or portion of a site identified by FEMA as having contamination and a state or condition that attracts mosquitoes, rodents or other disease-transmitting animal.”

Mills said that she thought the county was “headed in the right direction” by adding these proposed districts, closing the gap between some of the more complex zonings for mixed-use developments.

Commissioners voted to move the item to the planning commission and bring it back for a public hearing. The vote was unanimous.