forsyth mixed-use complex

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Commission voted July 23 to approve a request to rezone 119-acres along Ga. 9 for a mixed-use complex that calls for over 900,000-square feet of office space and 88 age-restricted homes.

Commissioners voted 3-1 in favor of the measure with Molly Cooper opposed. Commission Chair Laura Semanson was absent.

McDonald Development Company designed the complex which runs along Ga. 400 just to the south of the Peachtree Parkway exit with frontage along Ga. 9 near Bethelview Road. Site plans include six office/industrial buildings ranging from 120,000 to 223,000 square feet. The plan also includes 88 age-restricted, attached homes by the Orchards Group, which operates several communities in North Metro Atlanta, including Central Park in Forsyth County. The homes will be located along Ga. 9 just east of the Pinnacle Glen neighborhood.

Around 20-acres of greenspace with walking trails will run adjacent to Ga. 400. The project will be built in three phases, according to the McDonald company.

The site was previously zoned for single-family residences, agricultural use and for a commercial business district. The new zoning is for a master planned district, a relatively new zoning designation that generally accommodates a mix of residential, business, recreation and greenspace.

Though the Planning Commission unanimously approved a recommendation for the rezoning in June, they included comments that the development did not conform to MPD regulations. Planning Commissioner Stacy Guy said the site is planned more like an industrial park, not a mixed-use development. Inter-parcel connectivity is built into the county’s codes on mixed-use developments, something the McDonald project lacks, he said.

Cooper agreed with Guy’s stance in her dissent. She also said she supported the commercial and industrial elements of the development but opposed the age-restricted homes, stating they were “bastardizing” MPD zoning and not an asset to the project.

Representatives from McDonald said their only viable option for the project was an MPD because all three areas on the site would need to be rezoned separately otherwise. That would also severely hamper their ability to develop a cohesive site plan because three different concepts would be required.

When asked if the residential component could be left out of the project, the representatives said the lengthy buildout of the commercial space would strap the project financially.

Todd Levent, who represents the area, said a complete lack of opposition to the project from county officials and neighbors weighed into his vote for approval. He cited that county staff, the Planning Commission, Chamber of Commerce and at least one school official all voiced approval for the complex.

Kristin Morrissey, vice chair of the Board of Education, said the Orchard Group’s residential project does not put any students in the school system, and many residents could live in the 55-plus community for years while continuing to pay school system taxes. She said Forsyth County Schools is facing a $23 million shortfall and needs the added revenues the homes could bring.

Howard Carson, speaking on behalf of McDonald company, said the complex could add $125 million to the county’s tax digest.

Representatives of the Forsyth Chamber spoke in support of the development at the commission meeting and in June when it came before the Planning Commission.

The vote to approve the rezoning came after commissioners appeared poised to table the discussion.

However, the McDonald company representatives said the pandemic’s delays to the county’s procedures had pushed their request to the end of their contractual obligation period for the rezoning.

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