- Local News
--By Phil Giltman on --
December 20, 2013 – Cumming, GA- In a 3-2 vote, Forsyth County’s Board of Commissioners voted down a proposal requiring entities applying for rezoning and variances to fully disclose who they are.
“I feel our current zoning method is transparent,” said Chairman Pete Amos. “I’ve never had a problem determining who the owner or developer was. If I felt it wasn’t transparent I would have voted differently.”
Commissioners Cindy Mills and Brian Tam also voted down the measure.
“I think the way it is being done right now we have a pretty good idea of who is applying,” Mills said at the meeting.
Commissioner Jim Boff brought up the proposal at the board’s Dec. 10 meeting which they discussed in length for more than 20 minutes.
“I think it can be important for the public to know who the Board of Commissioners are dealing with when it comes to doing business on behalf of the county,” said Boff. “I don’t believe you can get a library card without identifying yourself.”
Commissioner Todd Levent said simply he voted “in favor of transparency.”
Former Planning Commissioner Joe Moses, who recently resigned, brought this proposal to the board last month. The request calls for rezoning applicants who are corporate entities or LLCs to file an affidavit listing the officers, directors and corporate stockholders. The Planning Commission voted 4-1 against bringing this proposal to the board of commissioners but Boff decided to discuss it anyways because he thought it had merit.
Moses said earlier the impetus behind his proposal is simply to avoid a conflict of interest and promote an open government.
“This will allow us to know who exactly is applying and whether or not there is a conflict of interest and if so we can recuse ourselves,” he said. “It provides more of an open government.”
Boff agreed. “Elected officials have a responsibility to identify conflicts of interest.”
Vanessa Bernstein-Goldman, a senior planner with the Forsyth County Planning Department, said when their department receives a variance or rezoning application they verify with the Georgia Secretary of State that the LLC is compliant.
“It may or may not have the name of the LLC,” she said. “We ensure they are in compliance and we then provide a screenshot from the Secretary of State web site and attach it to the application.”