FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — When new gas stations come up on the Forsyth County Commission docket, there’s almost sure to be a string of residents registering concerns about the businesses’ proximity to their neighborhoods.
Debate over the issue highlighted a Nov. 6 Forsyth County Commission work session.
Officials directed county staff to explore current buffers for a recommendation as to how future applications should be considered.
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said she was worried about gas stations that are currently being developed.
“I’m saying because there’s one gas station that’s coming in right now, should we change our entire Unified Development Code because of that?” Mills said. “Just because (a neighborhood) doesn’t like one coming in, should we change our entire UDC?”
But Commission Chairman Todd Levent said the buffer issue will be decided so future stations will know what’s acceptable before even beginning the application process.
“How far would you want a gas station to be from your back deck with several hundred cars coming and going, especially at night?” Levent said. “You have to think about the noise and slamming doors and they’re heavy traffic areas. You come, get what you need and go. Fast in and fast out. Typically there’s not a house or subdivision right up behind them. We’re trying to protect those people from not being stuck after they’ve lived there a period of time.”
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said they could work on the zoning so the gas stations must be part of a shopping center. Levent agreed saying such an arrangement would help establish a buffer between the homes and the stores.
“The problem is we’re a bedroom community and we have subdivisions that are located on major highways like Ga. 400, Ga. 369 and McGinnis Ferry Road,” Mills said. “Now you have commercial wanting to come in. There will be other commercials that want to come in.”
Jarrard said gas stations are always zoned as Conditional Use Permits, and the conditions for those may prevent this problem.
“Commissioners could deny the CUP,” Levent said. “It happened a little while ago. The bottom line is you need minimum standards that are reasonable.”
Commissioner Laura Semanson said her district deals with this often, but she wants the standards to be based on some sort of fact.
Mills agreed and said each situation needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis to see what’s surrounding the area and the location, rather than rendering decisions based on a set number.
“Just look out the window and see how close you’d want a gas station to your backyard,” Levent said. “Go measure it.”