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Commissioners, planning commission discuss comprehensive plan

Joint meeting airs concerns, questions



FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Multiple county agencies, including the Board of Commissioners, Planning Commission and Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, came together March 29 to discuss the Comprehensive Plan. The group mulled over residents’ suggestions and concerns about future planning in one of the fastest growing counties in the country.

The 2017-37 plan, which serves as the county’s long-term policy guide and strategy for future growth and development and identifies how the county and its residents would like to see Forsyth evolve over time. It includes guidance for future development, identifying priorities for the near future and a five-year action plan to set everything in motion. The four areas of focus are land use, economic development, housing and transportation.

This joint meeting gave another look into the plan, which could be adopted within the next few months. The plan is in the fifth and final phase of a process before submittal to the state, according to senior planner for Jacobs Engineering Allison Stewart-Harris.

The suggested changes will be reviewed and updated before being brought back to the board again April 13.

For over a year, various meetings, public hearings, work sessions and information gatherings have been held for the community and county officials to air concerns.

The county saw the draft of the plan in September 2016 and it hasn’t changed since then, Stewart-Harris said.

A number of changes have been discussed, but the plan itself hasn’t been altered, according to Eric Bosman with Kimley-Horn and Associates planning group.

He said the land use component of the plan was structured around the community character maps that were built last summer. Based on the history of the county and the variety of locations, there are 11 character areas. The areas, identified by the community, are broken down into McFarland, South Ga. 400, Big Creek, Haw Creek, Lanier, Vickery Creek, Campground, North Ga. 400, Chestatee/Jot-Em-Down, Etowah and Sawnee Mountain.

“We were hearing from the public that in the past, the comprehensive land use plan treated the county as one big place rather than recognize the variety of communities and history that makes up Forsyth County,” Bosman said. “The new comprehensive plan is actually structured very differently. Rather than character areas in corridors, they are based on regional nodes.”

The planning commission reviewed the document and had about 60-70 edits and changes, Bosman said. The board of commissioners went through the edits and many were accepted. Some edits included the McFarland node expanding, the South Ga. 400 node being reduced a bit and Haw Creek and Lanier changed in terms of boundaries.

Some suggestions included creating community areas or town centers much like Crabapple in Milton. But others disagreed and said Milton has surrounding cities like Alpharetta and Roswell to help.

“Town centers are one of the things people kept saying they wanted,” said county resident Mary Helen McGruder. “They want a place to gather, a sense of community and somewhere to go with their children as a family. We all want that. The areas that have it successfully have density. You can’t have retail without rooftops. It doesn’t have to be scattered, but we need to have provisions for density.”

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