FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Planning Commission voted April 27 to nix proposed regulations they say would limit lower income families from the calling the county home.
The issue stemmed from proposed changes to the county’s regulations governing manufactured or mobile homes. County officials said the changes were initially spurred by cases in which developers have tried to create de-facto mobile home parks outside of areas zoned for the structures.
While planning officials agreed with many elements of the changes — mostly related to aesthetics — they balked at a proposed minimum lot size requirement of 2 acres for a manufactured home built outside of districts the county has zoned for mobile homes. Proponents of the 2-acre requirement say it would move Forsyth County closer to reflecting standards of neighboring counties.
But some commissioners said Forsyth County’s steep land costs could price out many families if the lot size minimums were raised from 1 to 2 acres.
Taylor Jackson, vice president of Dahlonega-based Bob’s Family Housing, said Forsyth County “probably” has the highest cost per acre of all areas in which it does business throughout North Georgia.
Jackson said his firm provides “the American dream of home ownership” at a lower price point through manufactured homes, and that doubling the lot size requirement would greatly hinder people from achieving that goal in Forsyth County.
He said many banks will not issue loans for manufactured homes, and those that do will still not finance if the land and property improvement costs match or exceed the price of the home itself — on average about $70,000 to $80,000.
Planning Commissioner Nedal Shawkat said doubling the lot size minimum would put “an enormous cost burden” on lower-income families.
“We’re looking at record land prices and record building costs,” Shawkat said. “It’s still not appropriate if those things were at a lower cost, but it’s particularly bad timing to put that cost on folks.”
With the cost burden in mind, commissioners agreed to keep the minimum lot size at 1 acre in residential zones outside of mobile home parks. Mobile home parks allow up to eight homes on a single acre.
Commissioner Jessica Thorsen said a developer subdividing an 8-acre tract for eight manufactured homes would present a far different appearance than a standard mobile home park.
“One acre is a lot of property, that’s bigger than the tract I own,” she said.
The minimum size for manufactured homes was also discussed. County planning staff proposed a minimum heated floor space of 900-square feet, but the Planning Commission voted instead to align minimum floor space requirements with those outlined in each zoning district. For agricultural properties, the minimum size of a manufactured home would be 700-square feet.
“We’re talking about an affordable product here for people who maybe don’t have a choice,” Shawkat said. “So, I think it’s wrong to push on folks what size home they need.”
Jackson, with Bob’s Family Homes, said a large portion of the homes his company sells are between 600 to 800 square feet.
Planning commissioners voted in favor of other proposals — requiring skirting around homes and that exterior wall finishes be “comparable in composition to standard residential construction,” with metal siding prohibited. They also signed off on requiring that utility meters be mounted in non-visible areas, when possible, and that manufactured homes cannot be used as an accessory structure on a property.
The Forsyth County Commission will review the planning board’s recommendations, then will take a formal vote on the update sometime in June.