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Public Hearing for Proposed Changes to the Forsyth County Unified Development Code 

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Dear Forsyth HOA & Homeowners Members,
    
    The run-offs and local elections are behind us. It is time to turn our attention to what's ahead, and that require our immediate involvement and engagement. 
 
     On Tuesday, July 29th at 6:30 P.M., there will be a public hearing regarding proposed changes to the Forsyth County Unified Development Code.  Among those changes are requests to revise the RES3 zoning category, and to add a new CR1 zoning category. We believe that these changes will lower the quality of life in the area, dilute the property values for us all, and further exacerbate the challenges that we all face as a community.  Please get informed, and come to the Planning Commission meeting to make your presence felt and your voice heard. As always, please write to your Commissioners and let them know how you feel.

     Below is further information regarding the proposed changes specifically and zoning issues in general. 
 
Thank you!
 
Your Forsyth HOA & Homeowners Team
   Call to Action

    PLEASE CONTACT YOUR FORSYTH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS TO TELL THEM THAT RES3 LOT SIZES SHOULD BE CHANGED BACK TO 14,500 SQUARE FEET MINIMUM.  AS THEY WERE WHEN THE LAND USE MAP WAS APPROVED AND  

   PLEASE CONTACT YOUR FORSYTH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS AND ASK THEM TO NOT APPROVE ANY NEW ZONING CATEGORIES THAT HAVE A ZERO OPEN SPACE AND DENSITY REQUIREMENT.


  ATTEND THE MEETING AND VOICE YOUR CONCERNS:  Tuesday, July 29, 6:30 P.M.  - Forsyth County Administration Building, 110 East Main Street, Suite 220 (Commissioners Meeting Room on 2nd Floor), Cumming, Georgia, 30040.

Your Commissioners:


Copy and Paste into your address field:  rjamos@forsythco.com; brtam@forsythco.com; tlevent@forsythco.com; cjmills@forsythco.com; JJBoff@forsythco.com; 
What is a zoning category?
     When an application to zone property comes in to the Forsyth County Planning Department, the application includes a request for a particular zoning classification. 

     Residential 3 (RES3) is a zoning classification in the Forsyth County Unified Development Code (UDC).   You will find all of the current zoning classifications on page 11-8 of the UDC.
 
Why zoning categories matter:
     Back when Forsyth County started to grow, we had zoning categories such as R1R, CR1, R1, R2R and R2.  These zoning categories were used frequently, and can be seen when looking at neighborhoods like Olde Atlanta Club, Aberdeen, Three Chimneys Farms, Polo Fields and the like.  These neighborhoods were designed to allow a variety of lot sizes and price points, while maintaining generous green space and preserving trees. 
 
     As our Board of Commissioners changed and changed again, there came a point when the older zoning categories were completely disposed of, and were replaced with categories that no longer allowed for “greener” communities.   Lot sizes averages in the zoning categories plummeted from 19,500-40,000 square feet, down to 6,000-9,000 square feet.  The result?:  Forsyth became a community with packed roadways and overcrowded schools and parks.  Who pays for all of this new growth?  We do.  Not only with the amount of time we spend stuck in traffic, but also with the never ending bonds we are hit with.
 
So what’s the deal with RES3?
   By 2007, our Board of Commissioners had changed again, and some of those Commissioners were able to make a tiny bit of progress to restore some balance back to Forsyth, by moving the RES3 lot size from a 9,000 square foot minimum, up to a 14,500 square foot minimum.  This allowed for an option of 1/3 acre lots to be available again.  That change did not come without its compromises. (See exhibit 1 below).
 
Why is the RES3 lot size so important?:  It has to do with our new Comprehensive Plan*.
    In 2011, reviews and revisions of the Forsyth County Future Development Map  and the Forsyth County Comprehensive Plan were completed.  The new map was adopted on March 15, 2012.  (See exhibit 2 below).  As you will see on the map key, most of Forsyth County’s residential falls under the “Suburban Living” category.  When you look at the Comprehensive Plan, you will see that Suburban Living is supposed to be zoned RES2 (18,000 square foot lot sizes), and RES3 (14,500 square foot minimum lot sizes).   (See exhibit 3 below)  This is key.
 
So what’s the problem?
   The problem is that the newly updated comprehensive plan took months and thousands of man hours to update.  But within months of the plan being approved by our Commissioners, the Commissioners then turned around and voted in changes to the UDC that undermined the intentions of the people who worked on updating the map.  One of those changes was to reduce the lot sizes of RES3 from 14,500 square feet down to 10,000.  They also voted to decrease side yard setbacks, by allowing eves to encroach into them.  These changes were not voter and taxpayer friendly, and completely negated the intention of those who had intended most of Forsyth’s residential to have at least 1/3 acre lots. 
 
…and to make matters worse.
    And to make matters worse, most of the zonings done in 2013 and 2014 fell into the RES3 and RES4 (1/4-1/5 acre) categories.  Very few were in the RES2 category.  So the comprehensive plan is failing*, because we do not have Commissioners in place who enforce it.
 
Zoning Summaries
1,349 units 2012 Total
1,767 units 2013 Total
3,435 units 2014 YTD # of Units Approved & In Process through 7/7/2014
 
    In his 6/19/2012 debate against Dennis Brown, Brian Tam stated, "We're not out soliciting residential housing to come to Forsyth County. There is plenty of inventory. We have stood strong on not giving in on our zoning requirements to compromise."  One year later he voted to change our zoning requirements to compromise.

    We agree with the 2012 Brian Tam. We believe our zoning requirements should not have changed for the worse, and for RES3 those lot sizes should go back to a minimum of 14,500 square feet. 
 
    We have two Commissioners who have acknowledge the drop in RES3 lot sizes was a mistake, and have agreed to go back to the 14,500 square foot lot sizes.  Those Commissioners are Jim Boff and Todd Levent.  We agree that since there has been no balance in zonings in the Suburban Living category, the best move at this time is to return to the 14,500 square foot standard.
 
So what’s the deal with CR2?
    CR2 is a new zoning category that is loosely based upon the old CR1 standard from the late 1990s and early 2000s.  CR1 zonings were meant to allow for a variety of lot size options in neighborhoods; and it was the preferred zoning category for the development of golf course communities like St. Marlo, Polo, Olde Atlanta Club and Laurel Springs.  Lots were 12,000 square foot minimum and 19,500 square foot average and 100 feet wide.  And even though there was no open space requirement stated for this zoning category in the UDC, neighborhoods without golf courses that utilized that zoning standard, incorporated a great deal of open space.  They included active and passive spaces like soccer fields, baseball fields, fishing ponds and large amenity areas, like the neighborhoods of Long Lake, Deer Lake and Aberdeen.  Other examples of CR1 are the Brookwood developments, Silver Leaf, Castlebrooke, Thorngate and Bridle Ridge.
 
    Although neighborhoods like Vickery have smaller lot sizes, and appeal to a number of people, Vickery also has a large amount of land preserved as open space in order to provide balance.  The new CR2 proposal is promoting much smaller average lot sizes, a zero open space requirement and no maximum number of units.   
 
Conclusion:  We don’t need to lower our standards.
     So who wins here?  Is it the homeowners and the majority of the voters?  No.  Because it seems we lost our rights the second we bought our homes.  We just get to pay for more and more bonds to create the infrastructure needed to support all of these new homes. The winners are the developers who will take their cash and run, and the property owners who think it is up to our Commissioners to make sure their profits are maximized at taxpayer’s expense. Packed roads, packed schools, and strained public services.  Enough is enough. 

    As Post Road Committee co-leader Jim Compton said, “Unfortunately, what we are leaving behind at the table every time we compromise are small slices of the quality of life that existed when many of us moved here.. we died a death of a thousand cuts…”  “If we never say "no", if we never say "stop" to inferior development, then unwanted compromise and continued degradation of the county will continue.”  “We gotta draw a line in the sand at some point.”  Claudia Castro, Managing Director of Smart Growth Forsyth County says…”Our county is a jewel… and it should be treated that way.”   “We don’t need to lower our standards.”
Reverences and Exhibits
    * From the Forsyth County web site:  "The purpose of the Comprehensive Plan is to guide the intensity, location and timing of development and to ensure compatibility with existing uses, infrastructure and economic trends while protecting natural and cultural resources."

   "Forsyth County's Comprehensive Plan serves as a policy guide as decisions are made in relation to growth and land use change. The plan addresses critical issues and opportunities through the incorporation of a shared vision for the community's future."
EXHIBIT 1 -
EXHIBIT II

EXHIBIT III

   Accuracy of Content

     This newsletter is put together by a group of highly dedicated volunteers.  The content is reviewed by group members, and is also sent to at least two commissioners for verification of accuracy before it is distributed.  To date, we are proud to say we have not had to retract anything we have published.  If you dispute any facts presented in our newsletter, please advise us as soon as possible.
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