I believe Forsyth County is the jewel of Georgia and I am very proud to serve as a Commissioner.
When I was elected, our County Government and many of our citizens were in the midst of severe economic hardship. Unemployment was high and property values were in decline. Homeowners and government alike had to make difficult financial decisions.
During this time the building industry was hit especially hard. Last year, The Board of Commissioners approved changes to the UDC to encourage economic development in the building industry. Specifically we reduced the minimum lot size for RES3 by over 30% and stopped counting rooflines in setback calculations.
This strategy worked as we have seen a building boom in the County, and have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the State. There were also some unintended consequences. Of our 22 zonings last year, 21 were RES3 or higher. Almost 60% of our new zonings approved lot sizes of less than 1/5th of a acre. This is ALL high density. We also approved a number of variances in these zonings reducing distance between homes, further increasing density.
I do not believe this growth pattern is sustainable or compatible with the desire of our citizens, and will ultimately result in higher property taxes to support heavier infastructure. Our schools and roads are over capacity in much of the County. I believe we need more balance in our density and more variance in our home styles. The character of a balanced residential county will influence Forsyth County Commercial Development as well. Larger lot sizes will attract business owners, executives, regional managers, and the headquarters and regional offices that come with them.
As such, I am calling on my fellow Commissioners to return density requirements to the levels in place when the current Future Land Use Map was enacted. To reduce risk of fire and employ common sense, rooflines should be calculated for distances between homes. Variances should be approved per UDC requirements, namely, to alleviate a hardship brought on by a special or unique circumstance.
I also want to send a message to the development community. Forsyth County deserves your best work. Our County is in high demand because of our schools, low taxes, and quality of life. We welcome quality development that sustains this identity. Please understand we need planned, balanced growth in this County. So, bring your best product, your best ideas, and build homes we will be proud of in 20 years. We will gladly work with any and all developers who share these goals. In the coming months, I will work with my fellow Commissioners to explore ways to economically encourage lower density developers and custom homebuilders to come back to our County. and restore some much needed balance.
I believe these actions by our Board will bring us further in line with what we all desire and hold dear; excellent schools, low taxes, and high quality of life for all residents.
* One Year Later - Todd 2015