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New mixed-use districts, Georgia Sports Arena headed to BOC
FCN Forsyth County Administration Building

Planning projects including changes to the county’s rules for mixed-use developments and a planned multi-sport facility on Atlanta Highway are headed to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. 

Both projects were approved at a meeting of the Forsyth County Planning Commission on Tuesday, July 27 and were previously discussed by planning board members a week before at a work session. 

The BOC will hold public hearings for the projects at future meetings.  

Here’s a look at the projects. 

Mixed-use districts 

Planning board members recommended approval, with changes, of a plan to create two new zoning categories for mixed-use developments. 

The proposal would change the county’s unified development code to allow for three district concepts for mixed-use developments" 

  • Master-planned district, or MPD, a reformatting of the county’s current zoning district for mixed-use properties; 
  • Mixed-residential district, or MRD, which would be exclusively residential and allow for a variety of housing types; 
  • And mixed-use center district, or MCD, which would allow for a mix of commercial, office and light industrial uses with or without a residential component. 

Board members also recommended changes from the original proposal by county staff, including that MPD have the same design and phasing criteria as the MCD, removing a rule that community space in MRD must be publicly accessible and changing rules for invasive species in all districts and using low-impact stormwater credits in certain districts. 

If approved, developments zoned MRD could include both attached and detached units and would need to use open space for some type of community benefit, such as a playground, square, plaza or community park. 

As proposed, MRD zonings would not be in use until county officials approve the next update in the county’s comprehensive plan, which must be done by October 2022.  

District 2 planning member Stacy Guy said it was “very important” to him that MRD not be approved until after the comprehensive plan changes, which will look at which areas are appropriate for the developments.   

Districts would need at least 30 acres to be considered and a pre-application meeting between the developer and the county planning staff and the district commissioner. 

Both districts would also require a minimum of 20% open space. Of that space, 25% would be needed for an active community space for recreation for leisure and another 25% would need to be undisturbed and could not be in areas that would otherwise be environmentally protected. 

Any major amendments to projects that were approved would need to be approved by Forsyth County Commissioners, who previously heard the plan at their own work session. 

Georgia Sports Arena moves ahead amid neighbor concerns 

Planning members recommended approval of a request from developers of the Georgia Sports Arena despite some concerns for neighbors near the property. 

The plan would rezone about 14 acres from neighborhood shopping (NS), single-family residential (R1) and commercial business (CBD) districts to all CBD for an office, retail trade establishment, a 6,000 square-foot restaurant and a 55,600-square-foot indoor commercial recreational facility with a conditional-use permit (CUP) for outdoor commercial athletic fields with 315 parking spaces on the west side of the intersection of Atlanta Highway and Valley Circle Road. 

Along with the commercial recreation facility, the development will include a training practice field, four pickleball courts, two volleyball fields, 313 parking spaces and four outparcels. The development will include about 25%, 2.3 acres, of open space. 

A variance is also being sought to reduce the exterior buffer for some lots from 40 feet to zero feet. 

During the public hearing, Steve and Deborah Burrows, who said family members have lived on an adjoining property since the 1950s, said they had concerns about proposed buffers for the development, destruction of greenspace, noise and traffic. 

“We do not really like the idea of this, but we know it’s going to be developed at some point by somebody,” Steve Burrows said. “At the moment, I’m worried about… this is a very dangerous curve. There have been a lot of wrecks in it, and the only entrance they’re going to have coming in and out of it is right in the curve. Also, they’re going to have an exit and an entrance on Valley Circle, and it’s a one-lane road.” 

Stephen O’Dwyer, who lives in the Liberty subdivision across the street, said there are some concerns for the neighborhood, including a future median on Atlanta Highway and drivers using the neighborhood as a turnaround if they miss the center. 

Eric Botts, of Summit Development and Real Estate, said developers were working with the Georgia Department of Transportation for traffic issues and said buffers would apply to land within the development. 

“We understand the concerns with traffic, and we’ll obviously do everything we can to mitigate it as allowable through GDOT,” “The noise issue, we’re going to have a 40-foot buffer around the entire perimeter on the property.” 

Botts also added that he understood O’Dwyer’s concerns, which is why the development will also have access on Valley Circle. 

As part of the motion that was approved, District 3 planning member Jessica Thorsen recommended that the Burrows and developers meet before commissioners make a final decision.