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Here’s the final decision on controversial industrial park
0125 INDUSTRIAL
Longtime Settingdown Road resident Drew Wade holds up documents during a board of commissioners meeting, protesting the vote to approve an industrial park in the Hampton area.

Following a heated conclusion to a lengthy and contentious rezoning process, a proposed industrial park in north Forsyth County will be moving forward.

Residents of the nearby Hampton Golf Village neighborhood have repeatedly voiced concerns about potential truck traffic issues and safety. But commissioners on Thursday, Jan. 19 approved a request to rezone approximately 37 acres on Settingdown Road to a restricted industrial district for warehouses totaling 383,175 square feet and 384 parking spaces.

James McCoy, president and CEO of the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, spoke on behalf of Forward Forsyth, an initiative between the Forsyth Development Authority, Chamber of Commerce, Forsyth County Schools and county government to promote economic growth in the area.

McCoy said data gathered from CoStar, a provider of information about commercial property, put Forsyth County at 94.9% commercial occupancy. He said the county needs more commercial products to draw desirable tenants.

District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson, who has been opposed to the project, wasn’t swayed.

“I’m not impressed that there is such a need for this – that it’s so desperately needed when there is a plethora of other opportunities that are directly on [Ga. 400] including some that are zoned and not built [and] including some that are zoned and built,” she said.

McCoy said there were many pieces of property within a two-mile radius that were zoned for light industrial use, however, only about eight acres were actually on the market, according to CoStar data.

Andy Coleman, a constant at meetings regarding the project, said McCoy shared “grossly incorrect information.”

“There’s 100-200 acres for sale,” Coleman said, referencing land five miles north and south along Ga. 400. “There’s an ample amount.”

Other Hampton area residents again voiced concerns about truck traffic and safety. One man said that recently the fire department had put up roadblocks along the road and detoured residents due to flooding.

Many residents said Settingdown Road lanes were not wide enough to safely allow trucks.

County Manager David McKee said the current lane width requirement for any new road is 12 feet.

McKee also said that a traffic light at Bottoms Road and Ga. 400 was in the final stages of approval with the Georgia Department of Transportation. This, District 4’s Cindy Jones Mills said, would hopefully help alleviate residents’ concerns about trucks traveling north on Settingdown Road.

Other concerns from residents related to land use, as many stated they believed a better use for the property would be for a residential product, possibly an age-restricted living facility like The Oaks.

District 3’s Todd Levent asked members of the audience to raise their hands if they lived in the Hampton area and could smell the nearby rendering plant inside and outside of their homes. Almost everyone from the neighborhood raised their hands.

Levent said he couldn’t imagine what the smell would be like at a potential residential product on the property, as it is closer to the rendering plant than the Hampton Golf Village.

“I would never move there,” he said.

Levent then asked what kind of commercial product should go there, a restaurant or retail shopping.

Members of the audience shouted out that a residential product goes there, with one woman saying the smell from the rendering plant “really [wasn’t] that bad.”

Chairman Alfred John asked Mills if she would consider limiting construction vehicles to using the entrance and exit to Ga. 400 at Bottoms Road exclusively.

“If the light’s up,” Mills said. “If the light’s not up, I don’t want to risk their lives trying to get out.”

Many members of the crowd laughed, shouted “Duh” and asked Mills if she minded if the people of Hampton risked their lives amongst the potential future truck traffic.

Commissioners approved the request by a 4-1 vote with Semanson opposed.

After the vote, residents shouted to commissioners that they should be ashamed of themselves.

One woman said that if a first death occurs on Settingdown Road because of the increased truck traffic, she would make sure to “invite [commissioners] to the funeral.”