The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners met on Nov. 24 for a work session to discuss topics related to the Sawnee Mountain Preserve, the public safety radio system and the Taubman Development Agreement.
All items were approved 5-0 unless otherwise noted.
Sawnee Mountain Preserve and Barker Overlook
Commissioners were presented with the site master plan for the Sawnee Mountain Preserve by Andrea Greco from Pond and Company. Greco walked the BOC through the new structures that Pond and Company had designed, including covered pavilions and a park storage building. Pond and Company worked closely with a design company called Icon to match the architectural styles of the preexisting structures already present on the site.
During the presentation, Greco pointed out that Pond and Company included a space for a field. The allocated field would be slightly sloped and used for recreational use, such as an area for camps, football or soccer. Greco said the company did not intend for the space to be dedicated towards a specific sport and that it would be left free for the public.
The parcel of land in question is around two acres of land situated off of Spot Road. The surrounding area already includes over 100 parking spaces, but with the site being a trailhead, the commissioners were concerned that parking would extend along Spot Road.
District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills had concerns about the open field of green space. She expressed that the county had purchased that land for parking instead and that the intended purpose of that land was supposed to be for the overflow of visitors to the mountain.
Greco stated that there would be an additional 34 parking spaces added to the location, but it did not seem to satisfy the commissioners and their need for parking in that area.
“I am a little concerned about us buying this property for parking and only getting 34 spots out of it,” Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said, “and it being used for a field, because ... it was really bought for parking. And it was made real clear that we need this [land] desperately for parking.”
Chairwoman Laura Semanson expressed her concerns as well, stating that more people will likely visit the preserve if attractors are added in. Commissioners were worried that people would want and require parking after the green space had been established and trees put in, making it difficult to work around.
Greco also presented the plans for the Barker Overlook, a name that was acknowledged by and approved by the BOC earlier in the work session. Greco stated that Pond and Company wanted to “pay homage” to the famous Barker House, as it was memorable to the family and many citizens of Forsyth County. The plans for the Barker Overlook included a covered picnic pavilion that was round and spaceship-esque in design, as a tribute to the Barker House.
“I think they’ve done a great job with what they have with the Barker Outlook,” Commissioner Molly Cooper said, though she did have reservations about some of the trails leading up to the outlook.
Cooper expressed her concerns that the Barker Overlook was only accessible to those by way of hiking trails. She stated that she wished the trails were more ADA-friendly and that the Barker Overlook was accessible by wheelchair. Greco remarked that the idea of making the trails wheelchair-accessible was possible, but the plan would ultimately need to be revised.
The project is expected to cost $1.55 million: $979,743 for the overlook and $570,840 for work along Tower Road, a gate and a proposed turnaround.
The commissioners did not approve the plan and instead asked for revisions. They will be having discussions with Jim Pryor, director of the department of parks and recreation department, Andrea Greco and the Pond and Company team. The Sawnee Mountain Preserve proposal will likely appear before the BOC again this winter.
Public safety radio system
Commissioners approved with a unanimous vote to enter into an inter sub-site interface connection agreement with Motorola Solutions Inc. for the public safety radio system to allow interconnectivity between Forsyth and Hall counties. The board gave the interim County Manager Doug Derrer permission to sign the appropriate documents for Motorola Solutions Inc. and approved a budget of $778,615.
The commissioners also approved the Interconnected Public Safety Radio System Intergovernmental Agreement between Forsyth and Hall County. Hall County had previously agreed to this arrangement, and the agreement allows Forsyth to utilize infrastructure and equipment from Hall County, though equipment will be required on both sides to install a microwave link between the two systems.
Forsyth County operates its public safety radio system with three transmit sites with towers with outgoing signals. They exist on Sawnee Mountain, at Molly View and at Fire Station 10. Because of the county’s terrain, only three transmit sites are needed.
However, there are some areas in the county, specifically in the northeastern parts, there is no coverage.
“We’re trying to cover some of the fringe areas on the lake and up in the northeast of Forsyth County so that our firefighters and deputies can stay on our radio system and be monitored by our dispatch,” said Chris Grimes, director of Emergency Management Agency. “We do not want our radio system to fall behind.”
Taubman Development Agreement
The BOC discussed an agreement with the proposed Taubman development and decided to authorize the county to seek reimbursement for the county incentives that were given to Taubman previously.
Taubman was supposed to build a mall between Union Hill Road and McFarland Parkway and open its doors on Dec. 1. The company penned a deal with Forsyth County in 2008 for a mall, office space, hotels and residential apartment units on the property. The residential apartment units were built on the property, but the rest remains undeveloped.
Commissioners approved County Attorney Ken Jarrard to take steps to reclaim the financial incentives that were given to Taubman in previous years. The total of those incentives is close to $3 million.
The motion was not time-sensitive as the county will wait for the next BOC meeting to finalize the approval on Dec. 3.