FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Neighbors of a proposed 44-acre senior living facility received a win at the July 28 Forsyth County Planning Commission meeting, but there is at least one more round left in the bout.
Forsyth Senior Living, LLC has requested a rezoning of 44 acres along Ga. 9, Shiloh Road, and Mars Hill Road in south Forsyth. The group’s plan calls for 339 total residences, including 130 assisted living/memory care beds. Also included in the request is 90 apartments, 24 stacked flats and 95 condominiums designated for independent living.
Forsyth County is set to cash in on significant grants to help fund its courts and behavioral health systems, but talks about accepting millions in HUD dollars bogged down at the Commissioners’ July 28 work session.
A half-dozen residents who live along Mars Hill Road spoke out strongly against the proposal. Though the large complex would abut many of their homes, the residents were not taking aim against the facility itself. Rather, they sharply disagreed with how it could be accessed.
The site plan includes three entry points — one each along Ga. 9, Shiloh Road and Mars Hill Road.
Nearby residents said that allowing an entrance along Mars Hill Road — even while limiting traffic out of the complex to right turns only — would create catastrophic traffic issues along their neighborhood’s roadway.
“Unless you stop that entry on Mars Hill Road, it’s going to be a disaster for our neighborhood,” one resident said.
Another neighbor said she was agreeable to a previous site plan presented around five years ago, one that included an entry along Mars Hill, that offered nearly 100 fewer units on 17 fewer acres. However, her feelings had shifted since the complex had ballooned in scope.
Residents also shared concerns about senior facility residents making left turns onto Mars Hill, adding to traffic in front of their homes, and drivers using the road as a cut-through from Shiloh Road to the entrance.
Talks to divert $12 million away from the development of Denmark Park have been put on hold.
Attorney Ethan Underwood, representing Forsyth Senior Living, said the intersection could be designed as a sweeping, right curve with raised concrete that would prohibit the turns residents were concerned with.
Forsyth Senior Living said the current zoning of their property along Mars Hill has a mandate that only right turns can be made onto Mars Hill and they wanted to “preserve the status quo.”
Steve Rowe, an engineer representing the senior living complex, said the Mars Hill entrance to the site is necessary for emergency vehicle turnaround, and he disagreed with a nearby resident that a cul-de-sac could replace the entry point while accomplishing that goal.
“If we had a cul-de-sac down there, it’s too far of a run from the front entrance to that point to turn around and come back,” Rowe said. “Fire trucks don’t like to do a lot of dead-end runs.”
After an hourlong discussion, the Mars Hill residents got the concession they had sought.
The Forsyth County Commission approved 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.
District 3 Planning Commissioner Jessica Thorsen, who represents the area, said she was conflicted, stating at one point she was on the verge of tears. She ultimately decided to recommend approval of the rezoning, with conditions that included disallowing the entrance along Mars Hill Road.
The motion passed unanimously.
Planning Commission Chair Stacy Guy said he entered the meeting ready to approve the entrance, but he was swayed by the outcries from neighbors.
“You guys changed my mind tonight,” Guy said. “This is why we have public hearings.”
Mars Hill residents still must make their case at a later meeting when the issue comes before the Forsyth County Commission for final approval.