Work is under way on the new Forsyth Zaxby’s.

Forsyth Planning & Zoning Commission approved variances for the freestanding sign at the new Zaxby’s Restaurant on Monday, Sept. 23 with minimal discussion. The tall sign at Zaxby’s, which is projected to be serving customers before the end of the year, will tower over the restaurant at 321 Cabiness Road so that travelers going either north or south on I-75 will have time to see it and take Exit 187 for a meal.

Zaxby’s owner Steve Stembridge, who lives in Monroe County, attended the Planning & Zoning meeting to answer any questions about the variance request. Forsyth ordinances limit the height of signs to 60 feet, but this sign is planned for 90 feet. City ordinances also limit the square footage of signs to 336 square feet; the variance asked for 444 square feet. 

The application says the additional height “is needed so interstate travelers from both the north and south will know that the businesses are in fact on this exit.” The larger area is needed so that both Zaxby’s and BP gas signs can be included on the pole.

“The extra height is needed to get over the trees so southbound travelers can see the sign and decide to get off at the exit to get food or gas. We feel that having a higher sign will yield more business for both business (sic),” read the application.

Stembridge told Planning & Zoning the extra height is needed because the place where the sign will be is in a dip in the land. He said the sign will cost about $70,000, with BP and Zaxby’s sharing the cost. He said the contractor responsible for the sign has years of experience doing similar signs and it will be engineered properly for stability. He said there is an identical sign at the I-75 exit at Byron.

In other Forsyth P & Z news: 

• Tammie Pierson, Forsyth director of economic development and the city’s liaison to Planning & Zoning, said that when P&Z board member Jennifer Taylor was sent a reminder of the Sept. 23 meeting, she responded that she is resigning from the board. Pierson said that Taylor’s term on the board ends Dec. 31. Cason Ogletree’s term also ends Dec. 31; he said that he would like to be re-appointed for another term. 

City Manager Janice Hall brought responses to Planning & Zoning about changes it would like to make to city ordinances governing the Planning & Zoning Commission. It would like to expand eligibility to serve on the board to include Forsyth taxpayers or business owners who live in Monroe County outside the city limits. Currently an individual must live in the city limits to serve on Planning & Zoning; current members would like to expand the pool of individuals who could serve. 

The commission had also asked for a procedure to remove members who miss too many regular meetings. Planning & Zoning Chair Martin Presley suggested that if a member misses two consecutive meetings without providing a reasonable excuse, there should be a phone call to the member. Member Steve Coleman suggested that missing three out of the 12 monthly meetings scheduled for the year, if two of them are consecutive and unexcused, should result in removal of the individual from the commission. Other members of the board who were present, Ogletree, Hal Clarke and Ainsley Hall, were in agreement. Hall said that missing three meetings, even if not consecutive, should be enough for action.

After a motion from the commission, Janice Hall said she will present the changes to council and will include adding to the city ordinance that Forsyth Planning & Zoning serves as the city’s Design & Review Board and adding that the city’s zoning officer (Pierson) will serve as advisor to the commission. Hall said it will be easiest to make all the changes at once. 

City Attorney Bobby Melton advised to add the word “unexcused” to the three absences meriting dismissal from the commission. He clarified that the changes would not be retroactive. 

Hall advised that the commission wait until after the changes are approved before nominating someone to replace Taylor. However, she asked that the commission have a suggestion for her to present to council by November or December.

Planning & Zoning meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 5 p.m. at Alderman Hall.