FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Commission approved a nearly 250-acre development of residential lots that backs up to the Big Creek Greenway.
The development includes 198 homes. The property is located off 7240 Castleberry Road near the intersection of Castleberry Road at Atlanta Highway.
The the zoning was for nearly 250-acres from agriculture district, or A1, to single-family residential, or Res2 for 198 homes. The initial proposal was for a master planned district, or MPD, and commercial business district, or CBD for 344 homes and 84 attached residential units on 287 acres with 49,800 square feet of commercial buildings with 239 parking spaces.
Chairman Todd Levent said the board has gone back and forth on finalizing conditions for the property for months.
Attorney for the applicant Ethan Underwood said it is not required to have a connection to the Greenway, but they would need an easement granted by the county to gain access.
The 9.5 acres of commercial were not in the initial plans for the development Underwood said, but his clients eventually capitulated.
“There is a trailhead at Fowler Park and when it crosses Ga. 9,” Underwood said. “You have an access point there with the trail that runs along Ga. 9 and then turns and goes north. It traverses this property. We agreed at the request of the commission that we will leave that commercial so there’s an opportunity to create that.”
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said the connection is needed because there are only so many places economic development can be placed along the trail in the county.
“If you talk to the chamber of commerce and go to other counties that have successful Greenways, that will be a huge marketing for that property,” Mills said. “We will be totally remiss if you don’t have that, parking and something with the Greenway. In the future, the Greenway will be a source of income for commercial development.”
Underwood said the developers don’t have a problem with allowing the access. They just don’t want to be required to build the trailhead.
“If you want to require the commercial to have access, that’s fine,” Underwood said. “We are being asked to do things that no other RES2 has ever been asked to do. We have 49 zoning conditions with subparts for a RES2. We are begrudgingly here willing to work with the zoning conditions.”
With all the changes, Underwood said they are nervous the property will not be marketable, especially because 80 percent of the lots will have basements.
But because it is part of the conditions, they’re willing to try, but asked to not have more added on.
“When it came through the Planning Commission it came out with 54 zoning conditions,” Underwood said. “Meritage (the applicant) said, ‘we’re out. You have chased us off. We’re done.’ So now we have (Butch) Rawson who’s been holding the property for 55 years saying, ‘Let’s just get something so I can try to sell it.’”
Levent said he has worked with Underwood on whether the basements would present a problem for the builders, but Levent said he doesn’t think it’ll be an issue.
“That’s why we kept going over the conditions,” Levent said. “It’s marketable. It’s as contentious as he said it is. There are a lot of changes.”