FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County commissioners are considering a policy change that would prohibit developers from adding any last-minute conditions in rezoning or permit requests.
“That’s how mistakes are made, and that’s how things get through that shouldn’t,” County Commission Chairwoman Laura Semanson said at the board’s Nov. 24 work session.
The proposed regulation would require developers to submit any conditions at least 48 hours prior to a Board of Commissioners meeting in which the project is on the agenda for consideration.
The period will allow county staff, commissioners and interested residents time to process those add-ons, and could cut down on confusion over conditions during meetings, a situation County Attorney Ken Jarrard said has happened “a couple times.”
At least two commissioners said they think some 11th-hour additions were put on development requests by design. Semanson called it a way to perhaps “slip something in.”
The 48-hour period would not include any conditions already put on a proposed project by county staff or the planning commission. Board members could also change or add conditions during the meeting.
“What we are talking about is those conditions that the community may work on with the developer or the developer may be working on with [commissioners] that are sort of add-ons to what is already the established battery of conditions that have sort of been following the zoning down,” Jarrard said.
Under the new policy, if a developer attempts to add a condition less than 48 hours before a meeting, a commissioner can postpone the item, have it presented without considering the late conditions or the board could still consider the last-minute additions, Jarrard said. However, the county attorney charged commissioners with enforcing the policy if they want to see it adopted.
“If we are going to do this, it is going to take some board discipline,” Jarrad said. “Because you all know, there’s going to be those situations where they come to you that day before that is outside of that 48 hours and they really want you to get this done. If you want this to be enforced and to try and really enforce this on the development community, the neighborhood community, the stakeholders that are trying to influence you on these zonings, we are going to need to be rigid in this.”
Commissioner Molly Cooper said procrastination by a developer does not constitute an emergency on her part. She said she intends to enforce the deadline.
Semanson also spoke in favor of the policy change.
“If you are not ready in advance to be able to share what you are presenting in a reasonable amount of time, which I think 48 hours is a very reasonable amount of time, you should expect to be postponed,” Semanson said.
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said she still has concerns over commissioners and developers changing or adding conditions on the fly during meetings.
“If we keep allowing them to work out their conditions during our meeting, they’re going to keep doing that,” Mills said. “And they spring new conditions all the time that way. We’re just going to have to start postponing every time.”
Commissioners could approve the policy at their Dec. 3 meeting. Jarrard said the policy would then be enforceable beginning at the board’s subsequent meeting.