Developer free-for-all in Forsyth

While residential zoning requests have abated recently in Alpharetta and Milton, south Forsyth County has exploded. The list of rezoning requests on the county’s website spills across three pages.

Shiloh Rd Site PlanMost alarming of all is the number of proposed neighborhoods with very high densities. A typical request starts with houses on 6,000 square foot lots or smaller. And developers are often requesting variances to allow homes to be built as close as 11 feet from each other. Most of the requests don’t fit the county’s land use plan.

Leading the charge is Ryland Homes who’s bought or has contracts on dozens of tracts in the county.

A few are adjacent to industrial uses that would be unpleasant to homeowners. Ryland has a request on Shiloh Road that’s surrounded by industrial and office parks, including a data center. Enormous diesel generators would be in back yards of homeowners. But the worst offender of all was a project approved on Daves Creek Drive. This 247-home development will be surrounded on three sides by a granite quarry.

Several factors are contributing to the developer orgy in Forsyth. Last year the county watered down their residential classifications to allow for dramatically smaller lot sizes. Lower impact fees also encourage developers to choose Forsyth. And homeowners were politically weakened by the elimination of at-large election of commissioners a few years ago. It’s reduced accountability.

The result is this avalanche of rezonings from developers emboldened to push densities to the limit. Forsyth will continue to struggle with traffic on neglected two-lane country roads and a school system already over capacity.

Grass root opposition groups are sprouting up everywhere. If you’re a Forsyth County resident (like I am) then I encourage you to get plugged into one of these groups. A good place to start is Forsyth HOA and Homeowners. Fix Forsyth Traffic is another good website focusing on the Post/Mullinax corridor. If you know of other groups, please leave me a comment.

13 Responses to “Developer free-for-all in Forsyth”

  1. ccastro September 19, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Smart Growth Forsyth County – http://www.smartgrowth-forsyth.org – has been working to try to achieve balanced solutions for growth and development for the past 10 years.

    With the recent emergence of high density rezonings, SGFC has proposed a way to diffuse the density and increase the greenspace in our count. Please go to our website and click on the link to the pdf. presentation sent to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.

    Thank you -
    Claudia Castro, Managing Director
    SGFC

  2. @greg September 19, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Claudia and SGFC have done a great job identifying another major issue–the per acre unit calculation. In short, when the county says a development has X units per acre, that includes stream buffers, flood plain, etc.

    Changing this calculation method is part of a long term solution to this problem. Another, in my opinion, is voting for Commissioners at large again so Commissions who vote on rezoning outside of their district can be held accountable by voters outside of their district.

    Thanks for pointing to http://www.FixForsythTraffic.com. We are trying to bring awareness to these issues and lean on the County to accelerate the infrastructure improvements.

  3. Eric September 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Lee, we moved from Alpharetta to the Vickery area and that has certainly turned out to be a mistake. The lower property taxes are far from worth it. A great line that I’ve heard, as it is essentially eight miles in either direction to the core shopping areas of Milton/Alpharetta or Cumming (ugh) & that it’s no reason that they call it the Midway area because it’s the midway point to anywhere. That’s the truth!

    In the Milton/Alpharetta area, large growth had maxed out and hasn’t significantly changed since we moved to the state in the mid-00′s. Over here in South Forsyth, it’s gone absolutely nuts. Major roads such as Post Road with one lane in each direction and countless side streets with simply dangerous left hand turns without traffic signals and along with these poor road conditions, there’s awful, slow traffic.

    One point that I do want to make, though, while unpopular to state because of the always thorny issue of taxation here, this zone, which Fulton was not a part of, voted down the transportation SPLOST at a higher percentage than anywhere in the entire state. I do find some irony in that many that are now screaming about the traffic issues had the opportunity to vote for a plan that actually had substantial funding for these transportation projects where the areas of biggest concern are today and act as if there hasn’t been any avenue for dealing with this.

    Above all, the county knew that this growth was coming and before the economic collapse, thousands of lots were already in place along Post Road. Infrastructure and being proactive are a joke in Forsyth and it’s not even a situation of being reactive as there is no reaction coming from those who hold the purse strings. The schools are becoming extraordinarily overcrowded and they are now rezoning several schools, after others including the Vickery area were done in the past year, because it’s becoming quite problematic.

  4. Kim September 20, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    As I said before, time to move to Dawsonville or Dahlonega. Cumming isn’t far enough out. At least Alpharetta and North Fulton is somewhat better planned and they’ve done a pretty good job keeping up with the infrastructure. By no means perfect but could be much worse.

    There seems to be a lot more good ‘ol boy politics in Cumming. It reminds me a lot of Newnan where we used to live. It is absolutely unbelievable the mayor wasn’t challenged.

  5. Mala September 22, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    It’s so sad that poor urban planning continues to plague the suburbs outside atlanta. With all the highly educated and well travelled people living/moving to alpharetta/cumming/Milton, I can’t believe there are no visionaries when it comes to urban planning and development. Alpharetta isn’t bad now, but its obvious it will just become another perimeter (yawn) and cumming will be a powder springs or marietta (bigger snooze there). I don’t understand why we can’t be something more modern, unique, and have cities that reflect our modern society. Cul de sacs, strip malls, and no sidewalks are so 1960.

  6. MAD JAX September 23, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    @ “Mala”, & ALL too! ~ It’s because of:

    (A) Our predominant “Active Living” lifestyle…whereas Us “Constituents” being so “busy-body” rather impeeds “Citizen Participation in Local Government” ~ which of-course They KNOW, and — at least as I’ve come to believe for My observations! — that’s exactly why the Future of most of Forsyth County has NOW been construed-shown as predominantly “Suburban Living” throuout ALL of the Forsyth County Comprehensive Planning Guide 2012 – 2035 “Future Land Charecter Map” : ?

    (B) Being-So ~ Those “Movers ‘n Shakers ‘n Policy Makers” of Forsyth county/City of Cumming – Our “Local Government” — thus remain enabled to exist Status-Quo…but for Our apathy : ?

    And for the figurative “Sleeping Giant” having now awakend ~ I do believe THAT is about to “Change” ; )

  7. SCSA31274 September 24, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    What’s wrong with cul-de-sacs?

  8. Peggy September 27, 2013 at 2:03 am #

    The roads will be expanded when there is a demand for it = people. New subdivisions will bring that demand. However this is very recent that market turned around. Cut them some slack. It’s not going to happen over night. Not to mention, there is a historic preservation of sorts by some groups and/or just not enough space to expand. The draw is that we have highest test scores (just announced SAT) and best school system in the state. Realtors are touring our schools to promote them I am sure! Luckily they already plans for many new schools and expansions. How can we keep that school info to ourselves?!! Impossible! The impact fees need to go to roads and schools each new subdivision feeds into. More concessions is where these groups have leverage partnering up with HOAs because blocking the construction is not going to happen. I do not mind more upscale shopping and corporate parks. But we need people to support it.

  9. Mala September 27, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Cup de sacs are ok, but it doesn’t make for a walkable city and its a pretty old concept.I would love to see city council plan for how to connect the city with the new downtown and make it feel like we are in a great and unique community. Wish I had better ideas but I’m just and engineer (not an urban planner). It seems like alpharetta is just plugging in the same formula followed by other atlanta burbs. I think it’s funny that some council members are claiming to have a “fresh vision”, but I don’t see how we are different or fresh.

  10. btipton October 9, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    As Claudia stated, Smart Growth Forsyth County – SGFC(http://www.smartgrowth-forsyth.org) has been working to try to achieve balanced solutions for growth and development for over 10 years. The County’s infrastructure(roads, schools, water, sewer, etc.) is clearly insufficient to handle the sudden increased current & planned development in South Forsyth. The crisis tipping point is here and other local groups like Fix Forsyth Traffic (http://www.FixForsythTraffic.com) are joining forces with SGFC to work on solutions, share information, educate citizens, and encourage citizens to speak out. The other groups I’m aware of include – Forsyth Citizens for Responsible Growth (http://forsythcrg.org) and Forsyth HOA & Homeowners (http://www.forsythhoa.org). Tonight another group has joined our ranks: Post Road Committee for Proper Development (http://www.facebook.com/groups/PostRoad). These groups understand that there is power in numbers and we must come together to stop the free-for-all. We must assure our voices are heard at the county and eventually the state level. I would encourage other individuals groups to join one or more of these sites. I would also point out that these issues not only affect South Forsyth, they affect the entire county. Just one example -whatever additional traffic is created by development in South Forsyth affects North Forsyth resident’s ability to navigate and travel through South Forsyth. If you think 400 commutes are tough now, as things stand now, they stand to increase exponentially. To preserve home values and quality of life in Forsyth, we must let our voices be heard at the county and state levels. Some Forsyth Commissioners are beginning to appreciate the issues but they are in the minority. We need you to turn up the heat so that they ALL appreciate and respond to these issues.

  11. @greg October 10, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Peggy,

    We have horrible traffic on these roads now, so there is demand for it. On Mullinax Road, for example, it takes 30 minutes every morning to travel 2 miles. Old Atlanta is as bad or worse.

    The point is that all of these new homes were zoned YEARS ago. The County has not planned properly and improved infrastructure to match the zoning approval. Further, the BOC is bending over backwards to allow variances to put homes 10-15′ apart from each other, greatly increasing density. There are no impact fees for roads in the county, and there is no funding for any roads now, because the first $100,000,000 goes to pay for a jail and courthouse in downtown Cumming.

  12. lynn February 4, 2014 at 11:02 pm #

    The real estate market was frozen for years. No one expected the turn around. They are not going to expand for the possibility of growth.

  13. lynn February 4, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    Yes we need the courthouse and jail. We would have had to incur fees to house inmates in other areas. And it improves the appearance of downtown. Cumming is a big city now and warrants those buildings. You’ll be happy when you are there for jury duty.

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image

Switch to our mobile site