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Newsletter #5
January 25th, 2014

Commissioner Levent Takes Stance for Planned and Quality Growth

At the January 16th Board of Commissioners meeting, District 3 commissioner, Todd Levent delivered a speech that "drew a line in the sand" for "Planned Growth" in Forsyth County.  You can view the video here and read the transcript below:

"I believe Forsyth County is the jewel of Georgia and I am very proud to serve as a Commissioner.  When I was elected, our County Government and many of our citizens were in the midst of severe economic hardship. Unemployment was high and property values were in decline. Homeowners and government alike had to make difficult financial decisions.

During this time the building industry was hit especially hard. Last year, The Board of Commissioners approved changes to the UDC to encourage economic development in the building industry. Specifically we reduced the minimum lot size for RES3 by over 30% and stopped counting rooflines in setback calculations.

This strategy worked as we have seen a building boom in the County, and have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the State. There were also some unintended consequences. Of our 22 zonings last year, 21 were RES3 or higher. Almost 60% of our new zonings approved lot sizes of less than 1/5th of a acre. This is ALL high density. We also approved a number of variances in these zonings reducing distance between homes, further increasing density.

I do not believe this growth pattern is sustainable or compatible with the desire of our citizens, and will ultimately result in higher property taxes to support heavier infrastructure. Our schools and roads are over capacity in much of the County. I believe we need more balance in our density and more variance in our home styles. The character of a balanced residential county will influence Forsyth County Commercial Development as well. Larger lot sizes will attract business owners, executives, regional managers, and the headquarters and regional offices that come with them. 

As such, I am calling on my fellow Commissioners to return density requirements to the levels in place when the current Future Land Use Map was enacted. To reduce risk of fire and employ common sense, rooflines should be calculated for distances between homes. Variances should be approved per UDC requirements, namely, to alleviate a hardship brought on by a special or unique circumstance.

I also want to send a message to the development community. Forsyth County deserves your best work. Our County is in high demand because of our schools, low taxes, and quality of life. We welcome quality development that sustains this identity. Please understand we need planned, balanced growth in this County. So, bring your best product, your best ideas, and build homes we will be proud of in 20 years. We will gladly work with any and all developers who share these goals. In the coming months, I will work with my fellow Commissioners to explore ways to economically encourage lower density developers and custom homebuilders to come back to our County. and restore some much needed balance.

I believe these actions by our Board will bring us further in line with what we all desire and hold dear; excellent schools, low taxes, and high quality of life for all residents."

By the numbers...

Total Home Units Approved in 2013: 1,767
Total Home Units Approved in 2014 to-date: 258
Total Home Units Under Review in 2014: 2,134! (35% increase from 2013)
# of Rezonings "under review " in eStatus: 22
 - # of Rezonings "under review" North of Hwy 20: 3

Upcoming Rezonings

JEH Homes, LLC (Mathis Airpark) ZA3649; 3.14 units/acre; Variance Request = Yes [District #2]
  Area residents are circulating a petition to reduce the density of ZA3649 at Mathis Airpark, you can support their efforts by signing the petition here

- Home South Communities, LLC ZA3642; 2.46; Var Request = Yes [#3]
- Apex Land Company, LLC ZA3650; 2.15;  [#1 and #3]
- KM Homes, LLC ZA3658; 1.60 [
- SR Homes, LLC ZA3659; 2.96 [
- 5315 Riverview, LLC ZA3660; 1.90 [
- Traton Homes, LLC ZA3661; 1.74; Variance Request = Yes [#2]
Shiloh Barnett LLC ZA3662; 2.50 [#3]
14905 Hopewell Group, LLC ZA3663; 2.49 [#4]
Ridgeline Land Planning, Inc. ZA3664; 2.13 [#1]

Seems like a lot, doesn't it?  Others think so as well - Forsyth Approves Everything
    What's Happening?

The Sharon Springs Alliance is a local non-profit comprised of neighbors in South Forsyth County who are studying whether the formation of a new city is both necessary and feasible. We are comprised of citizens who love our quality of life but are concerned about the rampant growth in our area and would like local control returned to our community. 

SSA was recently featured in a number of area news outlets and blogs

Please visit their website to learn more:

The Peachtree Parkway Improvement District (PPID) has met the obligations of the County and the State to take control of the medians and right of ways on Peachtree Parkway 141.  As many of you know, this road has not lived up to the standards expected by the citizens of Forsyth.  The group is privately funded by HOAs and businesses to make our area something to be proud of for the 35,000 cars that travel on 141 everyday. 
The week of January 27th, the Georgia Department of Transportation will send its crews out one more time to pick up the trash on 141.  After that, it is our responsibility…and by “our”, I mean the private citizens of Forsyth and its businesses.
To date, PPID has raised nearly $50,000 to commence operations.  These donations come from HOAs for Longlake, Bridle Ridge, Peachtree Court and businesses such as WalMart, Scotts Auto Center, Community Business Bank, and Forte’ Data Systems. 
The money we have raised will go towards maintenance and mowing.  We need to raise substantial more funds to start the process of installing landscaping.   

If you or your HOA would like to contribute to the cause or you want to get involved, please email us at:
    Multimedia Presentations
Traton Homes (Old Atlanta Road) and Ridgeline (Settles Road) 

Take a look at these informative videos that not only lay out the specific concerns regarding hi-res development in our community but are very educational.

Traton ZA3661 (Old Atlanta Rd)                                  Ridgeline ZA3667 (Settles Road)
Videos courtesy of Scott Eckley, Olde Atlanta Club
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  Food for thought...
In 2013, 95% of residential development was "high density" - lot sizes under 1/4 acre. To keep our taxes low, we need to return to balanced growth - High density developments of 3 to 6 homes per acres require more road, school, and other infrastructure needs which if left unchecked, will drive higher property taxes. Our Commissioners must learn to both spend less  and to increase our revenues, and they need to vigorously pursue a more modest growth path until infrastructure can meets existing citizens needs. 2014 is on pace to far exceed 2013 - 1052 residential units are up for rezoning in just January  & February  - - - - 6,000 new residences in 2014 would gridlock roads and schools, and drive home values down.  The market for smaller homes on smaller lots is the only one that has been addressed.  There is still a big demand for larger homes on larger lots.
Many schools in South Forsyth are (over)packed.  When comparing published reports to actual numbers, it is clear The Board of Education has underestimated the number of students who have already, and will be entering Forsyth County Schools in the next few years. In fact, Forsyth County Schools have seen an increase of 500 students since the school year has started.  Considering the bulldozers are just coming out of hibernation (post-recession), those student numbers are just the beginning of the fallout from the development avalanche we are about to see.  While we don't have exact numbers, you can draw a pretty strong conclusion that most of these kids will be entering schools in the southern part of the county.  All three South Forsyth high schools are already over capacity. Our schools were just re-districted, and the high schools were left out.  Do you know why?  It is because they had no place to move the students.  The plan is to add an addition on to Lambert and West (500 students each).  But there are currently no plans to build another high school until 2017.  Over a five year period, we saw TWO new high schools get built and then filled to capacity and that was during a time of slow growth. 
All South Forsyth parks are packed.  Despite the 100 million dollar green space bond the taxpayers voted for in 2008, our gym space is packed.  Our field space is jammed.  Where will all of these new kids play sports when we don't have room for the kids already living here? One Commissioner suggested we cut down the trees behind the Old Atlanta Recreation Center.  Another suggested we require developers to put more recreational facilities in neighborhoods. 

Many of our roads are congested.  The last Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST VI) passed by an extremely narrow margin.  T-SPLOST was voted down. Some road improvement projects were rolled over from the SPLOST VI project list to the SPLOST VII list.  These projects are 7-8 years behind, if funding comes in at all The building of a new jail and courthouse are taking priority over road improvement projects.  But that just relates to county roads.  At the recent  Georgia Transportation Summit [video] the message was clear - there is no money for many state road improvements (the video on state roads starts ten minutes and thirty seconds in). Highway 369 – Highway 9 – Highway 306 – Georgia 400…. No money for improvements through 2017… and beyond.
Our water supply is limited.  Yes, we secured a source of water via the City of Cumming for the next 25+ years... but as you all know, Forsyth County has had severe water shortages over the past decade.  In order to get an easement from the Corps of Engineers for a water intake, the City of Cumming agreed that under no circumstances would they take more than 30 million gallons a day.   Add to that the fact that our state is being sued by Florida and Alabama over water releases from Lake Lanier (our only source of water).  Isn’t it a bit irresponsible of us to continue to grow at an accelerated rate?
What about the environment?  How many of you have heard of the Big Creek Watershed?  50% of it lies in Forsyth County.  According to the State of Georgia, only 25% of the watershed should be developed.  According to a study done by Smart Growth Forsyth County, to date (2013) … Forsyth County has allowed the development of 23%.  It seems as if our county leadership has no intentions of honoring the mandate.  According to one of our commissioners, the Cities of Cumming and Roswell ignore this rule as well… but Cherokee does not.  Should we be adding to the destruction of the water shed just because some others are?
Be Heard!
Call and E-Mail All 5 Commissioners to let them know how you feel about High Density as it relates to:
  • School overcrowding and redistricting
  • Traffic congestion
  • Lack of sufficient recreation space per resident
  • Damage to environment
  • Reduced property values driven by overcrowding
  • Higher taxes driven by expensive infrastructure projects "after the fact"
  • Reconsidering how density is calculated by excluding non-buildable acreage

"Please be firm and direct yet respectful"
The Coalition:
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