Ahead of a public hearing scheduled for Oct. 20, District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills and representatives from Toll Brothers held a community meeting to discuss the details of the Coal Mountain Town Center.
More than 30 residents showed up to the meeting on Oct. 4 to hear details about the proposed development and voice questions or concerns.
The Coal Mountain Town Center, which has not gone through finalized naming, is a mixed-use development on about 140 acres stretching from highways 396 and 9, and Settingdown and Martin roads.
The development is proposed to include 73,300 square feet of retail space, 20,200 square feet of office space, 300 multi-family units or apartments, 219 townhomes and 261 single-family lots. The development is also accounting for about 36 acres of greenspace with a natural trail network throughout.
On Oct. 20, commissioners will hear the county-initiated request to rezone the 140-acre property from agricultural, single-family residential, multi-family residential and commercial business districts to master planned or mixed-use center district.
At the Oct. 4 community meeting, Mills began by explaining her vision for the town center.
“I’m 60 years old and I’ve lived here all my life, and … in my growing up days, I never saw Coal Mountain becoming this,” Mills said.
When commissioners updated the county’s comprehensive plan in 2016, Mills said this area at the intersection of highways 369 and 9 was shown as “the perfect site” for a town center.
“That was when I really got to working on how [I can make this] a town center when it’s all already zoned,” Mills said.
Instead of the land being “just a chopped-up mess” with what Mills said could be five different developments, she was striving to make the area a cohesive piece where people could gather.
Going along with the project are road improvements, such as the widening of Hwy. 369, the Hwy. 369 and Ga. 400 interchange and the Coal Mountain Connector, a new roadway to connect highways 369 and 9 with two lanes in each direction.
The Coal Mountain Connector will run through the proposed town center, creating a main entrance for the project at a proposed future roundabout on Settingdown Road. The connecting road will also activate the warrant for a traffic light at the entrance of Bridgetowne neighborhood.
The estimated completion date for the Coal Mountain Connector is 2024 and contingent upon the completion of Lanierland Park, as the road will cut through the Coal Mountain Park, moving the Miracle League to its new home at Lanierland.
With the road improvements, the Miracle League’s new location and rezoning process, Mills said the town center has been a complex project in the making. However, she said she is hoping to provide branding to the Coal Mountain area and uplift the surrounding community with an attractive product.
“To me, Coal Mountain has always been about the people,” Mills said. “It’s always been really good fine people that care about each other. And it’s really important to me that we progress, but we don’t leave our history behind. We take it with us.”
Residents had some concerns about storm water management on the property, traffic and the proposed connectivity the project will provide.
Regarding stormwater management, Adam Guercio, a representative from Toll Brothers, said the general rule of development is to detain 100 percent of what they develop and capture. This would be done through a “massive amount” of underground utilities, detention areas throughout the project and gradual drainage during off hours.
While sometimes mistakes can happen during development, Guercio said Toll Brothers had not seen stormwater management issues with its developments in Forsyth County. He knocked on a wooden table after that statement just in case.
Guercio and Mills both acknowledged that traffic in the area is bad, particularly at Hwy. 9 going north.
Because the town center is bordered by state highways, Guercio said Toll Brothers did not have much authority over road improvements nearby. However, he said that the county had a good relationship with the Georgia Department of Transportation and hoped Hwy. 9 could be widened in the future.
For now, Guercio recognized that Hwy. 369 was undergoing widening, the Coal Mountain Connector was planned to be built and the Hwy. 369 and Ga. 400 interchange was in motion, which he said might alleviate traffic concerns in the area in the coming future.
Residents were also wondering about the proposed connectivity the project would provide, specifically asking if the natural trail network could be extended to reach abutting neighborhoods.
Guercio said he and Toll Brothers would be happy to work things out with neighbors and explained that sidewalks would also be created to connect the project to the nearby schools, Coal Mountain Park and dog park off County Way.
Many residents liked the proposed town center and asked how they could show their support.
Residents are encouraged to attend the Board of Commissioners regular meeting on Oct. 20 to speak in favor or in opposition of this rezoning request during the public hearing. Speakers will have a total of 10 combined minutes for either side to share their thoughts.
The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners has also submitted a request that the unified development code be amended to include requirements for the proposed Coal Mountain Town Center Overlay District.
This overlay district would “promote [a] high quality, sustainable and pedestrian-friendly mixed-use community,” would regulate design standards and require a design review by a third-party architect.
The public hearing will take place at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20 at the Forsyth County administration building at 110 East Main St. in Cumming.