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Forsyth commissioners halt multiple zoning categories
Officials: moratorium could last months
ConstructionHalt 2 WEB

FORSYTH COUNTY -- A new moratorium placed on the most popular application categories has effectively halted most residential zoning in Forsyth County.

At a work session on Tuesday, Forsyth County commissioners approved 4-0, with District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos absent, a time-sensitive 30-day moratorium on the acceptance of applications for zonings to master planned districts, single-family community residential CR2 districts and single-family residential Res-3 and Res-4 districts.

“This is based upon my understanding, in speaking with a few [commissioners], that there is an interest in fundamentally revamping some of the residential portions of the unified development code,” County Attorney Ken Jarrard said.

Jarrard said a public hearing on the moratorium will be held at the commission’s Feb. 2 regular meeting, where it is expected to be extended because changes will likely take a few months.

“The more challenging part is the drafting of the verbiage of the [code] changes all together. That involves staff in conjunction with my office,” Jarrard said. “The best case scenario … would be three months.”

Later in the meeting, the commissioners moved forward with changes to the county’s unified development code, the rules for zoning and land use, for several residential districts. Those changes will require at least two public hearings.

The districts have been the subject of several discussions as the county continues an update to its 20-year comprehensive plan, called Foster Forsyth.

The update was originally slated to be approved in late 2016, but that timelines was extended to allow new Commissioners Rick Swope, of District 2, and Laura Semanson, District 2, to give input.

“The items in which we are considering changing are aligned with what the comprehensive plan is conforming to,” said Chairman Todd Levent, of District 3.

With an ongoing moratorium on multi-family residential Res-6 districts, only single-family residential Res-1 and Res-2 districts — the least dense residential categories — and manufactured or mobile home park districts can accept zoning applications.

The moratorium on Res-6 zonings — which includes townhouses, low-density apartments and condominiums — was approved in August 2015 and extended a month later. It must be lifted within 60 days of the county completing the comprehensive plan.

In March 2016, the county also approved a moratorium on all new zoning applications, citing a backlog of work for the Planning and Community Development Department and being short-staffed. In April, the ban was lifted for all except Res-2, Res-3 and Res-4 — it was extended for those districts.

In June, the moratorium on those three was extended for another 90 days, though up to seven applications for each category per month could be filed. It expired after those 90 days.

Another moratorium on land disturbance permits for Res-3 zonings was approved in August 2016, and in September an extension was granted through December.

Commercial, agricultural and other non-residential zonings were not impacted by this week’s vote.

Responding to a question from District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, planning staff said they received “about a dozen” applications on the Monday and Friday after the moratorium was first brought up in last week’s regular commission meeting in a last-ditch run to get their zonings into consideration before the freeze.