FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Board of Commissioners spent most of its Dec. 8 work session discussing updates to a number of county codes and hashing out new regulations.
Among the topics discussed was the county’s master planned district zoning requirements. The relatively new zoning category accommodates a mix of residential, business and recreation/greenspace.
The changes were spurred, at least in part, by a rezoning request the county fielded and approved over the summer. McDonald Development Company proposed a 119-acre development along Ga. 9 near Bethelview Road that included over 900,000 square feet of office space and 88 age-restricted homes.
Members from the Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners spoke out against the master planned district zoning the developer was seeking because they felt it did not conform to the intended nature of an MPD. Representatives with McDonald argued an MPD was the only zoning designation that could accommodate their plan.
County officials began working on updates in August and presented new stipulations to commissioners last week.
As proposed, an MPD would be permitted to have a mix of uses or be exclusively residential or exclusively non-residential, have a minimum size of 35 acres with no more than six units-per-acre of housing. At least 20 percent of the total site would be required to be “open space,” either undisturbed or active community areas.
Planning and Community Development Director Tom Brown said the 20 percent open space requirement could be an incentive for developers because it is less than is currently required. However, stringent design standards would be required for those spaces.
For a mixed-use MPD, a “significant component” of non-residential areas must be constructed before the completion of the residential buildout.
Commissioners also began hashing out details for residential and agricultural lighting standards. The focus areas of the planned updates are light pollution, the general amount of light disturbing the night sky, glare from light sources and light “trespass,” illumination that goes beyond a property onto another.
Commissioner Molly Cooper suggested some stipulations on light spillover in residential areas that could allow the county to counteract particularly intrusive light trespass. She suggested codes that were “common sense without being too intrusive.”
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said such rules could be likened to a noise ordinance that would give the county some “policing power.”
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said the county’s properties, including parks, should also be considered in any new regulations.
Also up for discussion was a proposed requirement dealing with special event facilities that have a conditional use-permit. Under the proposal, the facilities would be required to outline all ancillary uses when requesting the permit. For instance, an event site that wants to also offer hayrides, retail shops, a restaurant, facility tours or other uses must be identified in the permit request.
Brown said the update would give commissioners a better idea of what a property owner or developer is requesting. He said developers must tell commissioners the uses they want, but if they request another use after the fact, county staff can tell the property or business owners to “go get another conditional use-permit.”
The work session also included talks on the county’s proposed ordinance that would allow backyard chickens to be kept in some residential areas. Commissioners chose to send the matter to another work session as county staff looks into the possibility the code could restrict the number of chickens that can be kept at any residential-agriculture properties or other agricultural zones.
As proposed, up to eight chickens could be kept at any home with at least one-half acre of property with additional requirements on care, sanitation and housing. Homeowners association covenants would supersede the county ordinance.