Current Issues

In an effort to more fully understand the complexity of forming a new city of Sharon Springs, and after reviewing www.sharonspringsga.org and the presentation therein, the members of Smart Growth have compiled a list of questions (see below) they are seeking clarity on.  SmartGrowth will host representatives of the Sharon Springs Alliance at the December meeting and will dedicate the entire meeting to this discussion. We will be meeting at the Bridle Ridge Subdivion Clubhouse, downstairs meeting room (click here for map). Please join us as we learn more about the proposed City of Sharon Springs! 

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 Sharon Springs

Sharon Springs Background (Source - http://www.sharonspringsga.org/ )

A group of concerned citizens in the southern part of the county formed the Sharon Springs Alliance to address challenges that they felt were affecting their area.  These challenges were identified as

  • Population Growth
  • Overcrowded Schools
  • Overburdened InfrastructureNegative Environmental Impacts
  • Decreased Property Values
  • Increased Debt and Taxes
  • Unsustainable Gap

They commissioned the Carl Vinson Institute to investigate the feasibility of forming a city which “confirms a new limited services city (City Light) in the southern part of Forsyth County is viable. The independent third party study shows the expected revenue to exceed or equal the expected costs of providing the proposed services. The following are the proposed services for the new limited services city: Planning and Zoning, Code Enforcement, & Solid Waste.

The study concluded the proposed city would be funded 1) without any large tax burdens to citizens, and 2) without the need to increase property taxes or use LOST funds.” 

 

Smart Growth Forsyth County Questions – Submitted by members of SGFC

1.  20% of the proposed budget revenue is projected from the “development fund, zoning and variance fees and permits.” 

  • Is that percentage expected to remain at 20% in the out years?  If not, do you have a projection for those out years?
  • This percentage was estimated using ratios of current assessed real property values between the proposed city area and the rest of unincorporated Forsyth County – in an environment of uncontrolled growth.  If one of your goals as a city is to control growth, lower the intensity/density of development, shouldn’t this percentage actually be much less?  To put it another way, the 20% assumes the city will operate in the same development environment of growth as the rest of the County – a ratio of the same number of permits, inspections, fees, etc. -- but how is that consistent with the objective to control growth?
  • Isn’t it disingenuous to plan using and having a source of City revenue that depends on the volume of development?

2.  How many undeveloped acres are available for zoning today within the proposed city limits?

3.  Do you have a proposed development vision, zoning or comprehensive plan? 

  • What is your vision for the appropriate balance between residential and commercial development?
  • How do you plan to encourage/maintain that balance?

4.  Will your UDC include specific protections for the Big Creek Watershed and the aquifer recharge zones to include hard limitations on the amount of allowable impervious surfaces?

5   Will your UDC assure that subdivisions have accurate as-built surveys for all roads-infrastructure, lots and common areas of responsibility?  Will your UDC assure that subdivisions have accurate stormwater as-builts, sealed by the proper professional, such as a hydrologist?

6.  Will your UDC include specific, defendable provisions to limit growth – such as a Controlled Growth Ordinance?  Understanding that this is a work in progress, please share the rough outlines of the kinds of formula's you are considering.

7.  The study envisions a city of more than 50,000 residents.  How are you going to ensure that you remain “city-light"?  What might you include in the charter?

8.  How specifically will the City Light concept help solve each of the seven identified county-wide challenges and the traffic problems both within the County and within the confines of the City itself?

9.  Will there be a specific City tax for the new residents?  If so, how much?

10.  Are you planning to support A1 as a legitimate and/or City-subsidized zoning category to maintain the remainder of the rural character of the area?  If not, and the City  buys a farm or some open land -- won't we have to raise taxes?

11.  Are you considering establishing a land-bank or city program of transfer of development rights to maintain the remainder of the rural character of the area?

12.  In your UDC, will you support a method of determining density by first backing out shared open space, mandatory buffers, setbacks and other unbuildable areas (riparian features, etc)?

13.  In your UDC will you support a method of determining open space that does not allow the counting of setbacks, mandatory buffers and other unbuildable areas (such as riparian features) as constituting open space?

14.  Do you envision a separate Chamber of Commerce for your city?

15.  What are your proposed impact fees and non-compliance fees for developers?  How will you enforce, including collection?

16.  Will you maintain the requirements of the Peachtree Parkway overlay?  Will you be establishing other overlay districts in your city or a master overlay for the city?  Could the objectives of Sharon Springs be accomplished by creating a Sharon Springs overlay?

17.  If the City of Sharon Springs is approved what is the proposed timeline to create a Planning Department, to develop a Comprehensive Plan and to take over Planning and Zoning responsibilities?

18. How will the Comprehensive Plan be funded?

19.  How will existing zoning applications be handled during the transition?

20.  Will Sharon Springs have a city center – something like the small downtown areas in Marietta, Roswell, and Norcross – where community events can happen and a sense of community can be built?

21.  Will all residences in the city be required to use the city solid waste disposal services requiring residents to drop the providers they have had for years?

22.  Will the City allow a second rezoning after a property has already granted a zoning? 

23.  How are you sure that County taxes won’t increase when you are funding additional land and building, personnel, equipment, etc. for the city over what currently exists in the county – all the while removing those revenue sources from the County?

24.  How do you believe that you will be able to get qualified candidates to run for open positions when that appears to be an issue across the county?  How do you ensure that there are people interested in running for positions in Sharon Springs who share the same vision as the people forming Sharon Springs?

25.  Do you plan to have strict ethics policy and enforcement, including requiring the names of all interested parties being identified up front during zoning applications?  How will you be better able to eliminate a conflict of interests?

26.  How will your code enforcement policy and enforcement differ from that of the county? 

  • The study indicated only four City vehicles – and 11 “direct services” staff which include code enforcers.  Is that indicative of the number of enforcement personnel that will be assigned?
  • Do you have an idea of the types/sizes of the fines?  The current County fine schedule is almost laughable in terms of the amount of “pain” it induces to development.  Will your UDC pursue fines comparable to the damages caused by UDC violations and pursue civil and criminal penalties?
  • How will you encourage county enforcement of issues/situations not covered by City codes?
  • How will you assure that certificates of occupancy shall only be final inspected by city employees (not 3rd parties) and that there will be no loop holes in your UDC such as parcel certificates and permits becoming void ab initio if developers-builders-land owners file incorrect or false inspections, certifications or permit documents?

27.  As a new city, what funding limitations may exist -- such as a credit rating?

28.  Forsyth County officials have raised many concerns and commissioned a study to address items that could affect all county residents.  Did the other counties where “city lights” have been created have similar concerns and if so, how do they feel now that the cities have been created?

29.  How will you eliminate the gaming of the system that goes on currently, including, for example, coming back to get approval for variances after a zoning is granted?

30.  The county has been increasing staff.  What is your plan to work with the County to prevent increasing costs for services that will be duplicated by Sharon Springs?

31.  How do you respond to County claims that other parts of the county will have an increased burden due to Sharon Springs incorporating?

32.  Are you willing to consider larger riparian buffers than the 50/75 ft undisturbed/impervious surface buffers along all State Waters currently in place at the county?  For example, adopting the 100/150 ft undisturbed/impervious surface buffers of the Big Creek Watershed?

33.  Will you host, from the start, an “E-Status” system, similar to the County, as well as other web-based services (meeting recordings, online UDC, etc.) to provide city residents maximum visibility into the functioning of their government?

34.  In your online presentation you call for “limited commercial business” as an element of “Planned Growth”.  Yet earlier in the same presentation you identify what you call an “Unsustainable Gap” in the difference between the annual property tax and the cost to deliver services --- and you cite a quote from “Business First” to support your assertion.  Are you implying increased commercial development in the city and if so, how is that in keeping with your approach of limiting commercial business?  What is the current and targeted ratio of Commercial to Residential?

35.  Please elaborate on what you mean in your website presentation by a “Reset” of legal precedents that exist in Forsyth County.  What specific legal precedents are you referring to and what do you believe those precedents have caused?

36.  How do you plan to balance the “property rights” nature of the county/state with your land use plan?  What specific provisions or “teeth” do you envision using to defend your vision of controlled growth? 

Resources, etc.

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