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Commissioners not in agreement over two proposed commercial projects
FCN Forsyth County Administration Building

After hearing complaints from residents, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners stopped two commercial projects from happening.

At a regular meeting on Thursday, Sept. 15, commissioners voted to deny an amendment of zoning conditions and conditional-use permit for Knapheide, a truck bed and body manufacturer, and an alternate design and conditional-use permit for Valvoline.

The votes were not all unanimous.

 

Kanpheide

Located off Friendship Circle and Canton Highway, Knapheide was requesting to allow the property to be used for “office, warehouse, light manufacturing, and automobile service establishment major.”

Knapheide was also requesting a conditional-use permit to operate an open storage yard with 44 parking spaces and a 37,330 square-foot building for manufacturing, processing and assembling purposes.

The property in question is 19.5 acres and currently zoned commercial business district and restricted industrial district.

Stephen Mann, speaking on behalf of Knapheide, said the facility will have “minimal impact to traffic” and “visibility/noise will not have an impact on surrounding areas.”

He also noted that the project would create between 25-30 jobs and would focus solely on sales and installation.

According to data taken from other Knapheide locations, Mann said this facility could expect about 8-10 customers a week with 3-5 semi-truck deliveries a week.

Mann also explained that Knapheide likes to work with the surrounding community, and the business would likely get involved with local sports teams and nonprofits such as United Way of Forsyth County.

Some residents of Burnt Hickory, an abutting neighborhood to the proposed project, spoke in opposition, including Barbara Kanya, president of the neighborhood’s HOA.

She did not believe this project was a good fit for the area because of existing traffic problems on the roads, the “invitation for crime” the trucks on the property could offer and the disruption of wildlife in the area.

During discussion, District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper, who said she lives near this area, said she was familiar with the current traffic issues.

“This is not the place for [this business],” Cooper said. “It’s a wonderful business; nothing against … Knapheide at all, [but] this is just not the location.”

After making a motion to deny the request, District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said she was “deeply concerned about our tax base.”

“When we hear that we are at 18% commercial county-wide, and there’s no way that we can sustain that, and we have a business that was established in the 1800s wanting to move in here that [could bring] $1.6 million to the county, I don’t think it should be just a rushed motion [and] second without any discussion,” she said.

Mills asked Tom Brown, director of planning and community development, if the county staff was supportive of the amendment of zoning conditions or the conditional-use permit.

Brown said county staff was supportive of the conditional-use permit, but the planning commission recommended denial.

“It’s not just this development; it’s not just this zoning. But we as a board and in the 10 years I’ve been on it, the demand is for residential – we approve the residential,” Mills said. “Our tax base keeps getting more and more lopsided because as soon as a subdivision comes in, the people come in in droves, they say [they] don’t want any more commercial, and our tax base has shrunk commercially 4% in the last five years.”

“It’ll happen time and time again until eventually one day, [none of us] will be on the board, but one day, taxes are going to be not appraisals – millage rates are going to quadruple, and it’s going to be because of the actions we commit today,” she said.

As commissioners voted to deny the amendment of zoning conditions, Mills said she would be “happy to bring [Kanpheide] to District 4.”

The motion to deny the amendment of zoning conditions was 4-1 with Mills opposed. The motion to deny the conditional-use permit was unanimous, 5-0.

Valvoline

Commissioners also voted to deny an alternate design and conditional-use permit for a drive-thru Valvoline Instant Oil Change facility.

According to Chairman Alfred John, the facility would need approval of the conditional-use permit to operate.

He also explained that part of the response from the surrounding community was that there were abundant number of car repair-related facilities” nearby.

“Adding to it raised some concerns,” John said.

While John said the BOC could not deny the project because there were too many similar businesses in the area, he cited the projects’ failure to conform to south Forsyth’s design standards as the basis for his denial.

Commissioners voted to deny the alternate design and conditional-use permit with 3-2 votes, with District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent and Mills opposed.

“I really, really wish the [Board of Commissioners] would let us have somebody come in and explain to both [the BOC and planning commission] about tax base, because I don’t think people are getting it,” Mills said.