FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — County officials put a final stamp on their opposition to plans by the City of Cumming to annex some 151 acres of property on the eastern edge of town.

The city last month doubled a previous proposal to annex 70 acres extending east from the city limits to Market Place Boulevard. The newest proposal encompasses about another 80 acres east across Market Place. Right now, all the parcels in the request are vacant.

The request for annexation, filed with the city July 8, comes from One Alliance Center of Atlanta.

Cumming had shared plans with the county for a mixed-use development to the west of Market Place, with retail, office and residential elements. That proposal would increase the density by nearly half what is currently allowed under the county’s comprehensive land use plan.

Speaking at a County Commission work session Aug. 6, County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the city’s desire to allow mixed-use would be appropriate within the area provided the proposal meets the county’s master plan development requirements.

The county now allows a maximum of 6 units per acre in mixed-use. The city’s paperwork suggests allowing 8.9 units per acre on those parcels west of Market Place.

“It is a fairly significant density swing to bring this into city limits, should that occur,” Jarrard said.

“That’s why they’re wanting to go into the city,” Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills remarked.

Cumming has notified the county it intends to change the zoning in the parcels from their current status — primarily central business district with light industrial — to planned unit development and highway business district.

Jarrard said highway business district zoning is not a suitable use for the area either, based on the county’s land use plan.

State law does provide the county with the right to oppose an annexation based on a proposed change in zoning or land use, proposed increase in density, and infrastructure demands related to the zoning change.

A valid objection would have to show a substantial change in the intensity of the allowable use due to the zoning change, Jarrard said.

Commission Chairwoman Laura Semanson asked whether the high density could prompt the school district to get involved in the issue, possibly joining the county in opposition to the annexation.

Jarrard responded that traditionally, school districts remain fairly “agnostic” on matters of annexation, however if an annexation creates a significant burden, a school system’s opposition would carry some weight.

“It should be a real concern of our citizens here that the impact that’s going to have on the district’s schools, especially considering all of the other high-density housing units that are being proposed within the city limits and that area,” Semanson said. “We’re going to hit critical mass.” 

Commissioner Molly Cooper said that the higher density will create greater draws on county services, like libraries and fire protection, yet the county will not collect a penny in impact fees from the developments.

“So it’s increasing demand, but it’s decreasing the funding for the demand,” she said. “This is not anything against any of the citizens of the city at all. This is what seems to be just a different way of looking at developers and development. The city seems to feel as though those fees do not have to be paid by the developers. They don’t seem to feel there’s a responsibility.”

An arbitration committee, empaneled through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, may become the final arbiter in the matter if the two governments cannot resolve differences.

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