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Commissioners discuss shining light on county zoning processes

Group discusses zoning activity, zoning workshops



FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners recently looked into ways it can shine more light on how zoning decisions are made.

The board is considering updating the way zoning issues are presented for consideration. County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the board could consider having meetings with the Planning Commission as part of a six-month trial, and the county will decide what to do from there.

The idea would be these would be standing informational meetings, possibly prior to board workshops.

“Everybody is hearing the same thing,” Jarrard said. “Perhaps there won’t be any back and forth from the Board of Commissioners to the Planning Commission. Interested citizens will then be allowed to look behind the veil and see where a lot of these negotiations go on.”

Commissioner Laura Semanson said she’s never felt comfortable with the way the zoning meetings have been carried out.

“The impression was we were meeting with developers of projects specifically identified in our districts,” she said.

Some may think this is a way to circumvent the Open Meetings Act, Semanson said.

“They may think this is where the deals are being made in the back room,” Semanson said. “This is just to open that up. Not that we won’t still have a discussion, but they won’t take each commissioner one-by-one and sell what they have going on in the county. This will be a comprehensive ability for the commissioners to lay it all out.”

The board also discussed zoning numbers from 2016 and the first few weeks of 2017.

Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said it’s important to dispense data to the public.

“It’s also important for (the board) to know so we can go back and review,” she said.

A compilation of the county’s zoning activity from 2016 and 2017 shows there were a total of 18 approved residential zonings in 2016, or six zonings in Districts 1 and 3, and two in Districts 2, 4 and 5.

As of Feb.21, there are 42 pending zoning actions. Some of those are carried over from last year, Jones Mills said. By district, those are broken down into 11 zonings in District 1, nine zonings in Districts 2 and 4, 10 zonings in District 3 and three zonings in District 5.

Seven zoning applications were withdrawn in 2016.

“With all the ones coming forward, this shows how important it is to get the county’s comprehensive plan finished,” Jones Mills said. “I wish we could get some new residential categories because I think that could change the makeup of the way the county looks in the future.”

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