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Commissioners mull town center plan for north Forsyth

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners decided to hold off April 25 on voting to create a potential master plan for a town center at Coal Mountain.

Tony Peters, vice president of Community Development for the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said this opportunity is unique. The chamber’s role as a vendor to the county through economic development is to seek, promote and foster commercial development, Peters said, and he will seek assistance from Georgia Power to see if that company might be able to help conceptualize a town center. This item will be brought up again at the board meeting May 9.

According to the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan and the Coal Mountain Overlay District Committee, an area of the intersection of Ga. 9 and Ga. 369 could house a town center, Peters said. In that area, there are roughly six property owners/partnerships that make up a little more than 100 acres. Of those 100 acres, a few months ago the board approved a county initiated zoning for a 55 and older residential neighborhood on 60 acres. The town center would be located in the remaining 40 or so acres.

Peters and Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills met with the owners/partners to “take their temperature.”

“When I say temperature, I mean explore with them whether they’d like to talk further of the uniqueness of their assemblage,” Peters said. “We also wanted to find if there was an opportunity to get them together to see what that layout could look like for a development, compared to them going individually. After we laid out an idea to them, the temperature was they’d like to potentially explore it.”

The group said they’d be interested in creating something that could mimic Woodstock or Crabapple, Peters said, which is something the Coal Mountain Steering Committee is looking for.

Next steps could include engaging a land planning development firm that would interview the community, collect data and create an action plan.

However, the plan hit a snafu when Peters said the endeavor could cost $25,000 and suggested it be paid for by the county’s Development Authority.

Commissioner Laura Semanson said this could potentially set a “tremendously dangerous” precedent by spending public dollars to benefit private business.

“They’re not even encumbered to have to use it and we don’t have any way to mandate that money comes back to the taxpayers who foot that bill,” Semanson said. “If the landowners or developers want to ask us to assist in that, not in a financial way, but to provide some facetime with us and our planning staff at their cost. That’s a different animal.”

She said this could turn into a black hole of spending where the county might have to continue to foot the bill down the line.

“I like the idea of a master plan, but I don’t support the idea of using public money for it,” Semanson said. “If we do it for one guy but not the next, have we favored one set of landowners? They will be beneficiaries of it as they’ll be selling their land. There is no payback to us for doing all that work.”

Mills said the proposal focuses on this particular intersection and not throughout the county.

“It’s not for the landowners, they’re not asking for it,” Mills said. “All we’re doing is trying to make it be like a Crabapple and trying to create something good for the community. This is taking the Comprehensive Plan and making a town center out of it. It’s behind that vision of what the community wanted.”


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