High-density frustration grows

Some in community voice concerns with Forsyth County’s rapid growth

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SUWANEE, Ga.— Rich Franck has been lobbying to stop JEH Homes from developing what he calls a high-density subdivision at Mathis Airport. His efforts might be working.

“JEH Homes asked for a postponement on the voting of their rezoning request,” Franck said.

At the May 1 Forsyth County Commission meeting, Commissioner Brian Tam postponed the item again to the May 15 regular meeting.

JEH Homes originally requested a rezoning from agricultural to residential six. That would mean attached homes with a 2,500-square-foot minimum lot size, Franck said.

“But they then changed the application to residential four, which is still attached homes but double the lot size,” he said.

Franck said he has made several attempts to talk to the builder and Tam, the county commissioner for the district.

“Rather than cooperate, JEH has sent me warning letters from their attorneys,” he said. “And other than a few quick phone calls with Commissioner Tam, I’ve not been able to get any real information from him.”

Tam, who represents District 2 on the commission, said he shares the residents’ concerns regarding high-density developments.

Tam said in the past 10 months, his district hasn’t approved any high-density developments except for developments that are age-restricted communities.

“These developments have no impact on the school system and are less impactful on traffic as the residents do not normally commute during rush hour,” Tam said.

Tam also said there have been other applications for high-density housing developments, but they have been withdrawn.

“I am not inclined to support them,” Tam said.

But the perception is that high-density developments are rampant.

Sharon Springs Alliance founder Steve Benefield said he’s worried the county is not listening to residents.

“I don’t feel the county is properly planning for growth,” Benefield said. “They keep allowing these massive higher-density communities to build and don’t consider the effect they have on the quality of life here in Forsyth County.”

Benefield said he moved to Forsyth about two years ago from Gwinnett County to provide a better quality of life for his family.

“The growth in Gwinnett was out of control,” he said. “And that has a direct impact on things like education.”

He said the move to Forsyth was necessary to provide a better education for his children.

“Unfortunately, Forsyth is following the same path as Gwinnett,” he said. “For example, Lambert High School is severely overcrowded and it’s become apparent that the county commissioners don’t communicate with the board of education and vice versa.”

Benefield said the lack of communication is a big problem for the county.

“You can’t just plop down a new school or a new high-density subdivision without communication between the departments,” he said. “There needs to be a plan that includes all facets of community growth.”

Benefield thinks the county needs to take another look at the Comprehensive Plan and amend it to consider the growth of schools, too.

“If we allow the county to continue to build in this way, we’re doing a disservice to our children,” he said. “Because with higher-density communities comes a lower quality of life and overcrowded schools, which ultimately has a negative impact on our kids.”

Benefield said part of the problem is because of the county’s voting process.

“Before, we used to be able to vote for all of our county commissioners,” he said. “But now, we can only vote for the one in our district.”

Benefield thinks the community should again vote for all county commissioners.

“That would give the community itself more effective control over the government, which is what we need,” he said. “And if we don’t gain some form of control over our government, we’re going to end up with a completely diminished quality of life.”

FH 05-07-14