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Will there be a parks bond on the ballot in 2020?
Matt Community park
Matt Community Park

Forsyth County commissioners are no longer sure a bond to fund local park projects will happen this year.

At a Forsyth County Board of Commissioners' work session on Tuesday, commissioners discussed but took no action on the proposed bond after having county officials bring back information following the previous discussion.

Commissioners said they wanted to take more time to think about whether to go ahead and speak with constituents, booster clubs and other stakeholders.

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who was on the parks and recreation board when commissioners passed a $100 million parks, recreation and greenspace bond in 2008, said that process had come from the parks rather than commissioners.

“I think that really shows the community was rallying for it, like booster clubs; they had the trust for public land, they had the soccer clubs,” she said. “...I think the success of it is it didn’t start with the board of commissioners and go out, it started out and came to the board of commissioners.”

She said after posting on social media asking for input from the community, many responders said they were not in favor of a new bond “because they said their taxes keep going up,” she said. For the 2008 bond, Mills said the process also took about a year to plan before going to voters.

If the bond were voted on this year, it would likely be decided in the November election.

Jim Pryor, the county’s parks and recreation director, said there were 11 projects to be funded by SPLOST VIII and impact fees:

  •          Big Creek Greenway Phase 5 project;
  •          Big Creek Greenway Phase 1 renovation and redesign;
  •          Denmark Park development and master plan;
  •          Sawnee Mountain Preserve development and master plan for Phase 4, at the former site of the Barker House;
  •          Lanierland Park Phase 2 development;
  •          Matt Community Park new recreation center;
  •          Master plan and renovations for Bennett, Sharon Springs and Midway parks;
  •          Renovations at Coal Mountain and Sawnee Mountain parks.

There was some infighting among commissioners over which projects would be the most important, largely with commissioners advocating for their own districts.

“It’s not about politics. It’s about a central part of the county that has been vastly underserved for years,” said Chairwoman Laura Semanson after District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent said the process had become political. “District 1 has old, decrepit parks and District 5 has none, and those areas of the county have been ignored … Things have gone to the south and things have gone to the north.”

Levent, who represents District 3 in southwest Forsyth, and Mills, who represents north Forsyth, also had back and forth about whether the Denmark Park project, in the south, or the northern Matt Community park should go forward first.

Levent said he wanted to keep with recommendations from the county’s parks and recreation board.

County officials previously estimated that for a $100 million bond, a home valued at $350,000 would pay an additional $60 per year and $400,000 home would pay about $75.