In the Feb. 12 edition of the Forsyth Herald, a headline read “Ga. 400 still the future: Economic outlook positive.” Another local publication also ran an editorial on Feb. 9 essentially reprinting the story, giving Mr. Norton a hearty stamp of approval. I believe the coverage has failed its readers. The article reads like a Chamber of Commerce press release, completely void of any scrutiny.
Mr. Norton is the president of a real estate and insurance firm in Gainesville. I applaud his success and am quite sure he is a good man. However, Mr. Norton’s opinion on development is biased, the same as asking the Ringmaster if he likes the circus.
Mr. Norton lauded the school system as part of Forsyth’s appeal. It is ironic that the schools are directly affected by the unabated residential development he supports. Mr. Norton failed to mention that the schools are severely overcrowded. Overcrowded schools typically lead to a decline in education by forcing the school system to focus on quantity rather than quality.
Mr. Norton even warns us that improvements must be made to the water and sewer lines, with no discussion of water supply. Forsyth County draws its water from Lake Lanier, but has no guaranteed rights for future withdrawal. It seems we stick our head in the sand when the lake is full, but seem surprised during droughts. The state is still facing lawsuits from Alabama and Florida, and the outcome is uncertain. Proceeding with the current level of development without a water plan is unwise. Development requires more water, and the county has a limited supply.
Not mentioned in the article is the fact the Mr. Norton stated the county has a need to balance housing stock at multiple price levels to balance the homes on “millionaire’s row.” I personally do not live on millionaires row and have no idea where it is located. I do, however, believe that we all want to keep out property values high. Housing stock at multiple price points is real estate code for high density development. High density development means more students, more traffic, but most importantly more real estate commissions.
The most disturbing part of the article was that Mr. Norton held Gwinnett County as a measure of successful development. He was excited that Forsyth County permitted 2,400 homes is 2013, compared to Gwinnett’s 2,500. The once heralded school system in Gwinnett is in decline. The county is now full of strip malls, gas stations, and apartments. Is this the future of Forsyth County?
My intention is not to insult Mr. Norton. On the contrary, I would be doing the exact same thing if I earned a living in real estate. The issue is the reaction of local press. Not only did they report verbatim Mr. Norton’s presentation, which acts as an editorial equivalent of “hooray.” Many in the county feel that Forsyth is headed down the wrong path. We are building the wrong things too fast with little regard for the future. The local press has presented a real estate report as factual news. They have failed to scrutinize any part of the report, and in my opinion have failed to properly inform the citizens of Forsyth County.