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County amends comprehensive plan
Commissioners approve hundreds of 'minor' changes to land-use map
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Despite some opposition, the Forsyth County commission has amended a portion of the county's comprehensive plan.
A report by a regional reviewing organization called alterations to the future land-use map, which included about 680 changes, minor.
But some of those who showed up for Thursday's public hearing on the matter said making changes to the map was anything but inconsequential.
Commissioner Linda Ledbetter, cast the lone dissenting vote in the 4-1 decision.
"Six hundred and eighty changes? A minor change to the future land-use map?" Ledbetter said. "I find that laughable."
Jerry Presley, an analyst with the Council for Quality Growth, expressed concerns.
"The future land-use map is intended to reflect future plans for this community, not the existing plans," Presley said.
The changes approved Thursday came from zoning maps, which reflect approved rezonings, and as-built maps, which represent the current state of property beyond the rezoning process.
Presley took issue with the way the zoning and as-built maps were being used.
Information from those maps was added to the future land-use map "to show the reality of how certain areas of the county have changed," according to county senior long-range planner Vanessa Bernstein.
Bernstein and county staff submitted the proposed changes to the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center, a research organization that studies community growth and natural resource conservation.
The organization responded that the changes were minor and there was no need to seek approval from the state Department of Community Affairs.
Bernstein said moving forward with changes was "an interim step before we go into the major update process, in which there will be full public participation."
Major updates to the comprehensive plan are scheduled for December 2009.
The last major update to the future land-use map in 2004 included information on rezonings current at the time, while the new composite version of the map reflects approved zoning changes from December 2004 to December 2007.
Cindy Mills, a resident who was involved in the 2004 process, said she was disappointed that there was little public participation with this round of changes.
"People won't know what's going on till it affects their property," she said. "They should be piled in this room right now, but they don't see the effects till it's too late."
Her chief concern is what she called the "feathering down" of residential rezonings and densities.
Mills said the county tends to make zonings and densities "flow as best as possible," and that as-built representation on the future land-use map will negatively affect property values.
"My fear is that nobody's thought this through from a business standpoint," Mills said. "It's not what the map says. It's what we know is going to be done with the map."
Commissioner David Richard summed up his stance on the issue: "Forsyth County is changing, and you've got to make changes to reflect what you've done in the past couple of years so you know where we're going to be."