At its June 15 meeting, which included six public hearings, Forsyth City Council approved re-zoning three acres owned by St. James Baptist Church, including where the church is located, on Railroad Ave. from traditional neighborhood to office professional. The impetus for the rezoning request is the intention of Charlie Pelt to buy 1.3 acres of the property and build an office for his State Farm Insurance and eventually build two additional offices to rent.
Planning & Zoning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning at its May 19 meeting. Forsyth Economic Development Director Tammie Pierson said she would like to see the rezoning approved because the current zoning is confusing, with multiple zones in the same area. She said with the requested rezoning the area would all be zoned for commercial use.
“The county map is incorrect; it’s all jumbled now,” said Pierson. “Now there are four different zones on one street.”
Pelt said he has a lease on his current office on Johnston Street for another year and a half and would like to have something built and ready to move into when that lease is up. Realtor George Emami, speaking in favor of the rezoning, said he has been trying to help Pelt find a good place to build an office for the last two years. He pointed out the quality work done in remodeling the office space where Pelt now has his State Farm office.
Eddie Stallings and James Ogletree, representing St. James Baptist Church, said that office professional zoning is compatible with their pastor’s vision and what the church would like to do with the remaining 1.6 acres in the future. The church would like to build a building to support its food pantry ministry and eventually build a family life building to support the existing church building.
Council members Greg Goolsby and Julius Stroud said there should be some time table for Pelt to finish construction so that it would not be left unfinished as had happened before when council approved rezoning. City attorney Bobby Melton said council could stipulate that construction be started within a certain time or the property would revert to its previous zoning. Council discussed setting stipulations only on Pelt’s property and not on St. James. Melton pointed out that all of the property currently belongs to St. James and the sale to Pelt is contingent on rezoning.
“What’s the concern with Office Professional?” asked Mayor Eric Wilson. “It’s compatible with the other properties in the area. If they keep it or sell it, what’s the difference?”
Council member John Howard then recused himself because he is a member of St. James Baptist Church, and all other council members voted in favor of rezoning, 5-0, without any restrictions.
Annexing 8.5 acres
The next Public Hearing was for the city to annex four parcels of property, totaling 8 and a half acres, at the corner of Patrol Road and Harold Clarke Parkway (exit 185), and the annexation passed unanimously. The properties were all zoned Commercial under Monroe County zoning and will be zoned Highway Business after annexed into the city.
Annexation was requested for three of the parcels because of plans to build a Quik Trip convenience store and gas station. Annexing these three parcels would have left the fourth parcel an island on non-city property. The fourth parcel is the site of Floyd’s Body Shop.
Melton said that he sent a letter to the county informing it of plans to annex on May 19 and has received no response or objection to the annexation from the county, with the 30 days to object due to expire June 19. He recommended the annexation be effective after June 19.
Council member Chris Hewett asked the Quik Trip project manager, who was present for the annexation hearing, when the Quik Trip would start and finish construction. She said the architectural survey would begin immediately after the annexation and would take about 20 days. She said construction would then take about six months.
zone in the city
Melton brought to council an amendment to the zoning code to add an agricultural rural district. He said the amendment was to make the city’s zoning code compatible with the county code, which has an agricultural district. Melton said he based the city agricultural zone on the county’s code for an agricultural zone.
“I don’t think we’re going to be herding cows on the courthouse square,” said Melton.
Stroud asked if the new zoning would affect Hamlin Hills, which is an agricultural tourism business. Melton said that it wouldn’t affect it now because there is already zoning for Hamlin Hills. There was no other discussion, and the amendment passed unanimously.
Property zoned agricultural/rural will be used primarily for cultivating crops, dairying raising livestock, plus rural residential and selected commercial uses. The minimum lot size is 3 acres.
The last public hearing was to add definitions of “growler” and “micro-brewery” to Forsyth’s Alcoholic Beverages Code. The need for the definitions was the new Fox City Brewery soon to open in the city. Melton said he used Georgia law for the definition of micro-brewery and reviewed other city codes for the definition of growler. He said the city will also need to set applicable license fees.
A micro-brewery is a facility for the production and packaging of malt beverages for distribution, retail or wholesale, on or off the premises and which has a capacity of no more than 15,000 barrels per year, and which facility may include other uses such as a restaurant, bar or live entertainment.
A growler is a bottle capable of being sealed for the purpose of complying with open container laws with a capacity of 16-64 fluid ounces, used for purchasing and transporting malt beverages produced by a licensed micro-brewery which also has sales and consumption licenses. Council approved adding these definitions to the city’s alcohol code.
Council approved reservation of the pavilion and ball field at Kynette Park, including blocking the road, trash can and liners, cutting grass and dragging the field, for Ramael Davis on Saturday and Sunday, July 25 and 26 from 9:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. There will be no fees since he isn’t renting the building. Hall said he has reserved Kynette Park for an event for several years. She said he originally asked for June 27-28 but delayed the event until July.
The application was approved without discussion.
Hall presented a contract from Georgia Department of Corrections for two inmates labor crews for the next year for $98,600. The cost is to pay the salaries of the two correction officers who oversee the crew. Hall said the city has been getting two crews for the price of one and that DOC has kept the cost at the same rate for several years even though its costs have gone up. It is adjusting costs to the officers’ salaries this year.
Hall said the city budget doesn’t include the increase and recommended the city only contract for one crew at $49,300. She said the city will use the inmate detail primarily for cleaning the city cemeteries. She said the city hasn’t had an inmate detail and hasn’t been billed for one since March because of the COVID-19 shutdown. Council approved to contract for one inmate crew, with the new contract effective July 1.
Mayor Eric Wilson said he read in the paper that the cost of correctional officers to oversee inmate crews has increased and clarified that he doesn’t read the Monroe County Reporter and read it in some other papers.
Forsyth awarded a contract to Robert’s Hauling & Pipeline, Inc. for the low bid of $516,979 for work on water system improvements in the Blount Street neighborhood. Hall said city engineers Hofstadter & Associates recommended awarding the bid to Roberts Hauling, which was one of seven bids received.
Hall said the work is under a Georgia Community Block Development Grant, and Forsyth has pledged to do $75,000 of in-kind work as part of the grant.
Also on the recommendation of Hofstadter & Associates, Forsyth approved a bid from East Coast Grading, Inc. for $230,104 for work on Forsyth streets under the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Local Maintenance & Improvement (LMIG) grant. East Coast Grading was the low bid of four bids received.
Hall said this contract is for 2018-20 LMIG monies (three years) because the city has changed which streets will benefit form the grant even though it has received the state funds. She said some of the changes were because of the impact building the new city hall will have on streets. Also the city had planned improvements to Country Club Drive at the city park and then later decided to close part of the road according to its city parks master plan. Hall said the city pays 20 percent of the cost of work under the LMIG grant.
Council approved a change order adding $42,438 to the city hall construction project at Hall’s request. She said it is necessary to replace a sewer line on Chambers Street. She said she asked city hall contractor Pelicano to recommend someone to do the work so that it could be done faster, and Pyles Plumbing & Utility Contractors of Macon was given the job without asking for bids.
“East Chambers Street is in bad shape after the construction,” said Hall.
Hall said an additional street was closed last week because of construction on the new city hall. Traffic has been re-routed entering and exiting the Robins Federal Credit Union parking lot.
She said work on the new city hall is on schedule to be completed in March 2021.
Council approved re-opening city facilities, including city hall annex, Kynette Park building and American Legion Hall, for public use. Hall said the city will following distancing and 17 other guidelines set by the state for facilities. However, after discussion council reversed its first decision and voted to keep facilities closed.
Council member Julius Stroud asked if there is a way to insure facilities are sanitized after each use. Hall said the city doesn’t have a cleaning company it uses regularly or an employee that is trained or designated for cleaning. She said Forsyth hired a new local company, Peachy Clean, to clean the city hall lobby for re-opening at a cost of $150.
“It’s something we need to look at, but it’s not budgeted,” said Hall.
Council member Greg Goolsby suggested the city amend its fees for facility use to include the cost of cleaning.
“You guys set the rental fees. We had a $75 refundable cleaning fee,” said Hall. “We can add $75 to the rental fee.”
Hall noted that the city agreed to a reduced rental fee for the city hall annex for yoga classes for seniors two or three days per week. If the fee is increased $75 for cleaning after each use, it won’t be practical.
“When we rent, we don’t know who is coming in,” said Stroud. “I want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect the city.”
Mayor Eric Wilson said his company, MedPro, uses a fogger with a chemical to clean ambulances after each use. He said there should be a middle ground.
Council approved buying a motor pump for the lift station in the water/sewer system at the jail for $28,946 from Goforth Williamson, Inc. of Griffin.
Camps, splash pad & TSPLOST
In her city manager’s report, Hall said the city will supply funds for instructors and supplies at summer camps at the Monroe County Recreation Department. There will be a reduced number of camps, reduced number of children accepted at the camps and the camps will follow 33 guidelines.
Hall said Grits Cafe withdrew its request to the city to block N. Johnston Street so that it could have seating there. Its neighbors on Johnston Street are allowing tables on the sidewalk in front of their businesses instead.
The city splash pad hasn’t opened because a part ordered has been delayed because of COVID-19. The part can’t be bought elsewhere because it has to be programmed to work with the system, and the splash pad can’t operate without it. The Forsyth Welcome Center is remaining closed.
There will be a TSPLOST meeting with the county and Culloden on June 19. Hall said the city will use its part of TSPLOST, if it passes, to extend sidewalks instead of resurfacing streets as it had proposed before. Initially the city estimated getting $720,000 from the TSPLOST. That estimate increased to $1.2 million, but Hall said tax receipts may be less now.
Hall said revenue under the existing SPLOST is down for the year, and LOST revenue is down $42,000. The city got $13,000 in Hotel/Motel tax for April 2020, whereas it got near $40,000 in April 2019.
During the Public Comment portion of the meeting, Walter Goodson told council his side of an incident that occurred the preceding Friday and Saturday. He had a dispute with Tracy Buff of Tracy’s Auto Body Shop in Forsyth over Goodson’s truck being towed by Buff and Goodson not being allowed to retrieve his belongings from the car.
Buff told an officer that Goodson hit him, which Goodson denied, but the officer told Goodson to get on the ground and arrested him. He said the incident lasted about 45 seconds, but the officer wrote a full page incident report that wasn’t accurate. Goodson asked to review the officer’s body camera footage, but was only given about 15 seconds of footage after he was on the ground.
Goodson asked that the incident be reviewed. He said his truck was towed two hours after it broke down and he doesn’t understand why he can’t get his belongings, including his driver’s license.
Council went into closed door session for 45 minutes to discuss pending litigation then conducted no further business before adjourning.