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Here's why a vote was delayed on a controversial industrial park
11192022 INDUSTRIAL
Many residents from the Hampton Golf Village neighborhood came to speak in opposition to a proposed industrial park at a recent planning commission public hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

Commissioners have delayed a decision regarding the proposed and hotly contested North Georgia 400 Business Park after hearing concerns from persistent neighboring residents.

The industrial park would be on the east side of Settingdown Road, south of the intersection of Smith Drive and Bottoms Road and the Hampton area neighborhood.

Following a recommendation of approval from planning commissioners, the rezoning request by The Pacific Group Inc. of Sandy Springs was heard by the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners on Thursday, Dec. 15.

Hampton residents have previously expressed concerns at meetings, talking to the board and planning commissioners about truck traffic on Settingdown Road and appropriate land use.

Residents also accused District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who represents the area, of having a conflict of interest. Hampton resident Lindsey Reissig suggesting the rezoning could positively impact a “longtime family business partner” Mills might have. She suggested Mills should be recused from voting on the item.

Reissig said she was missing her son’s fourth birthday dinner to attend Thursday’s meeting.

“Will it or will it not directly impact [your business partner] and his land by helping provide sewer to his property?” she asked. “This is really the only question we want answered.”

Mills refuted the claim that the owner of the abutting property was her business partner.

In early 2022, commissioners approved an amended ordinance that provided “prohibitions and use parameters on sewer expansion funded by” the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Commissioners designated specific areas in the northern part of the county near the Hampton neighborhood that would receive sewer lines, and they unanimously approved a rule that residential developments nearby could not connect to the sewer lines until 75% of the parcels of land had been filled with commercial or industrial tenants.

So far, the business park request would bring the first non-residential development to the area.

Hampton resident Andy Coleman echoed Reissig, saying the request was all “about sewer.”

According to the Hampton area residents, Mills’ alleged business partner owns land “directly adjacent to this parcel” and could benefit if the county allows him to attach to sewer.

During discussion, commissioners could not come to a unanimous agreement. District 5’s Laura Semanson said one of her concerns was creating a transition area from the very residential zonings along the east side of Settingdown Road and commercial developments on the west side abutting Ga. 400.

Semanson said she had faced this issue with neighborhoods along commercial corridors and transition areas before. The Hampton Golf Village’s main ingress and egress is on Ga. 400.

“Maybe those neighborhoods … shouldn’t have been built on state roads; maybe the [Hampton Golf Village] shouldn’t have been built on [Ga. 400],” Semanson said. “But the fact of the matter is, they’re here.”

Semanson received applause from Hampton residents, who were told to quiet down. The audience had to be told another two times throughout discussion to stop interjecting.

For homeowners, Semanson said she believed a home was one of their largest investments, and she thought it would be doing residents a “disservice” by not creating less intense transition zones.

Mills asked what a less intense transition zone might be. Was it a Res4 or Res6 zoning, which could allow for smaller land lots, townhomes or apartments?

Director of the planning department Tom Brown said county staff and planning commissioners had previously recommended approval of the rezoning request because it was consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan.

Project attorney Christopher Light said his applicant is willing to postpone a final decision to make necessary changes.

Semanson said she did not know what could change between Thursday’s meeting and a meeting in January 2023, and she voted against postponing, but the motion carried 3-1 with Chairman Alfred John absent.

Hampton area residents said it was “unbelievable” and “rotten” for commissioners to push the vote forward another month.

As residents shouted while exiting the meeting room, District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper said, “Acting out is not going to help your cause here.”

“We’re coming back with more,” a man replied.

“That’s fine, but can you behave yourself next time?” Cooper asked. “Like an adult?”

The item is slated to be on the commissioners’ Jan. 19 agenda.