FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A local group of homeowners has joined forces to educate residents on issues pertaining to Forsyth County, including selecting candidates to back in the upcoming election and sharing those endorsements with tens of thousands of homeowners.
In 2013, the Homeowners Coalition formed when members of various community activist groups joined forces, including Fix Forsyth Traffic, Forsyth Citizens for Responsible Growth, Forsyth HOA and Homeowners, and Post Road Committee for Proper Development.
Tony DeMaria, the director of Forsyth Citizens for Responsible Growth, said the Homeowners Coalition started at his house after he called people he knew involved in the other HOA and neighborhood organizations.
“We sat and said ‘we should work together,’” DeMaria said. “We don’t really have any rules. We just talk to each other” and work together to make the county better.
So the group began working to implement changes they wanted to see in Forsyth. Their first goal was to get Todd Levent elected as commissioner, and he was.
A letter shared with their supporters in April explains the Coalition is “an alliance of organizations from all over Forsyth County that pursues lower taxes, quality development, quality education, less traffic, and who monitors actions of our elected officials and county government. The organizations represent landowners and homeowners, business owners, community leaders and families just like yours.”
With the May 24 primary coming up quickly, DeMaria and his group sent out a 10-question pledge to the six candidates running for the three open Board of Commissioner seats. Candidates include: Chandon Adams (running for BOC District 5), Justin Hawkins (BOC 5), Cindy Jones Mills (BOC 4), Laura Semanson (BOC 5), Rick Swope (BOC 2), and Kelli Warren (BOC 4).
Topics addressed by the Coalition’s questions included, “high-density development without proper planning; increasing taxes; overcrowded schools; traffic gridlock; spending of tax dollars and capitalism; transparency in government; infrastructure issues: roads, schools, water, sewer, parks and the tax burden it puts on the existing homeowners; impact fees.”
All of the candidates, except Mills, the only incumbent in the BOC elections, responded that they 100 percent agreed with the Coalition’s “pledge to action” items the group believes are “required to create citizencentric environment in Forsyth County.”
Mills said she looked at the pledge “very carefully” and even consulted with County Attorney Ken Jarrard.
“As a sitting commissioner, I have to be very careful what I sign,” Mills said. “There was one in particular item Ken gave me his opinion on that it was precasting the votes. I’m uncomfortable going with a special interest group, whether it’s developers, landowners or that special interest group. To me, when you put your hand on the Bible and take the oath, you are attesting to be moral and ethical, and take the pledge for Forsyth County. That’s where your oath lies — with your pledge to serve, and you don’t need to take anything else if you’re doing it with your heart, code and ethics.”
In addition to the questionnaire, the Coalition also held interviews to determine which candidates they deem the “homeowners’ choice.” In this year’s BOC race, the group chose Swope, Warren and Semanson to back.
In turn, the Coalition will share their endorsements with some 35,000 households the group estimates they reach.
One of the big issues often discussed at BOC meetings and among homeowners is zoning, especially with the rate Forsyth County is growing.
But, DeMaria said, that’s not all this pledge and group is about. Rather, there is concern that the county is moving in the wrong direction, he said, citing a 2015 citizen survey the group put out that reportedly indicated 74 percent of residents believe “the county is heading in the wrong direction.”
“Zoning is one ‘telltale’ sign that the ‘good ole boy’ power structure is strictly special-interestcentric and in power,” DeMaria said. “This fact is becoming better known by the citizens.”