A look back on 2016

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — In a statement released through Facebook Jan. 4, State Sen. Michael Williams announced that legislation was officially withdrawn to create the county’s second city of Sharon Springs.

Williams said he’s had many conversations with members of the Sharon Springs Alliance, a nonprofit composed of neighbors studying whether the formation of a new city in Forsyth County is feasible. Williams said it’s abundantly clear that people are frustrated, mad, disappointed and hurt.

In March 2015, State Rep. Mike Dudgeon introduced House Bill 660 that would initiate a referendum to incorporate the city of Sharon Springs in southern Forsyth County. However, in December 2015 at a pre-legislative breakfast, Dudgeon said the delegation decided the bill was “unconstitutional” because it was fashioned as a city-light, with the bare minimum of municipal offices. Williams said at that event that legislators want to regroup and find another way to go about creating Sharon Springs.

Forsyth County breaks ground on $370M Halcyon development

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County’s very own mixed-use development broke ground Feb. 5 as the community ushered in the beginning of the project named Halcyon.

Halcyon, by real estate groups RocaPoint Partners and The Georgetown Company, is a $370 million development off Exit 12 on Ga. 400. It is expected to open fall 2017.

Phase I plans include 125,000 square feet of retail space. The commercial village will include a movie or entertainment venue, gourmet market, outdoor outfitter, up to 10 local and regional full-service and fast-casual restaurants, a boutique fitness club and service retail. Up to 65,000 square feet of loft offices and built-to-suit spaces are included in phase one of the village, as well as a 110-room hotel developed by Tharaldson Hospitality, a ground-up hotel developer. When complete, the project will have two hotels and more than 360,000 square feet of office and retail.

In November, CMX, a state-of-the-art cinema venue, was announced as the development’s anchor. The theater will have 10 screens, 500 seats, 38,000 square feet and is slated to open April 2018.

In addition, the development’s for-sale residences include 87 single-family units and 155 townhomes with prices starting in the high $400s. There will also be 448 luxury apartments. In total, there will be more than 3,600 residents who will live within a half-mile walk of Halcyon’s commercial village.

Forsyth’s population, schools to reach impressive numbers

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A study released by the Norton Agency said in 2015, Forsyth was among the largest populations in north Georgia coming in at a little less than 225,000 residents. Only Cherokee County exceeded Forsyth by a small margin.

But, population predictions say Forsyth will have well over half a million people in the county by 2042.

And to continue that trend, Forsyth County Schools reported in August that the system’s trend line is showing enrollment reaching 50,000 students during the 2018-19 school year.

Current enrollment in August was at 45,684, an increase of 1,570 from the same time last year. This year the district registered 5,536 new students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Forsyth County is the seventh largest school district in the state, he said, behind Gwinnett (176,196), Cobb (112,355), DeKalb (100,875), Fulton (95,683), Clayton (53,797) and Atlanta (51,120).

However Forsyth had the highest percentage growth, of 4.7 percent, among the top 12 counties. That enrollment growth rate falls just behind five other systems, including Bremen City (5.1 percent change), Jefferson City (5.9 percent), Decatur City (7.6 percent), Long County (13.7 percent) and Vidalia City (28.1 percent).

Lake Lanier alligator captured

LAKE LANIER, Ga. — An alligator spotted several times over the summer at Lake Lanier was captured Sept. 1 by the Southeastern Reptile Rescue group, just in time for Labor Day weekend.

The 2-3 foot-long alligator was seen about four times in the popular boating spot since mid-July, according to Melissa Cummings, communications and outreach specialist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The alligator posed little threat to anyone, so the DNR was not planning to move it, Cummings said. Since the alligator was most likely someone’s pet, the SRR said they are planning on keeping him in captivity for educational purposes.

Forsyth principal, parapro post racist Facebook remarks

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Lambert High School Principal Gary Davison was put on a leave of absence following a meeting Jan. 28 with Forsyth County Schools Superintendent, Jeff Bearden regarding posts on Davison’s personal Facebook page. Davison returned to school Feb. 8.

In a statement, Davison said he "learned a great deal from my mistakes and I am committed to regaining your trust."

"Please know that every student at Lambert HS is very important to me," Davison said. "I appreciate all that (Assistant Principal Pam) Bibik, the administrative team, teachers and staff have done for the school during my leave of absence. I pledge to each of you to further support the students of Lambert HS."

Then in October, a Forsyth County paraprofessional was fired for reportedly posting multiple racist remarks on her Facebook page.

Jane Wood Allen was relieved from her duty at Chestatee Elementary School after controversial images from her personal social media account surfaced Sept. 30. She had been working for the district since 1989.

Ga. 400 north widening complete

The funds for the Ga. 400 widening project were partially provided by the Forsyth County Transportation Bond that voters approved in Nov. 2014.

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Officials cut the ribbon Oct. 5 on an eight-mile portion of the highway from McFarland Parkway to Ga. 20. The lane completion fell just short of a year after its groundbreaking in November 2015.

The project includes construction of an additional lane in each direction on Ga. 400 from McFarland Parkway to Ga. 369, including widening bridges at Big Creek and at Lake Lanier/Sawnee Creek.

The target completion date for the remaining northbound expansion is spring 2017. That stretch will run from just past Ga. 20 to Ga. 369. The entire project, both northbound and southbound, is scheduled to be open to traffic in October 2018.

The project was funded through a partnership between Forsyth County and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Forsyth voters approve ESPLOST, senior homestead exemption

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — More than 80 percent of registered Forsyth County voters turned out Nov. 8, voting to extend an education sales tax and pass a revision to the county’s homestead exemption.

The education sales tax passed with 63 percent of the vote. It establishes a one-cent sales tax for education that runs five years or until the cap of $195 million is reached. By law, special purpose local sales taxes imposed for schools can only be used for capital projects and to make payments on bonds. Forsyth County voters approved similar referendums in 1997, 2001, 2006 and 2011, with the current SPLOST expiring in June 2017.

The second major ballot issue was a senior homestead exemption which would reduce a property owner’s eligibility for school tax exemptions. Forsyth voters approved this measure with 60 percent in in favor.

In 2001, Forsyth voters approved a 100 percent senior, or age 65 and up, homestead exemption for school taxes. Since that time, Forsyth County’s population has grown from 98,407 to 212,500, and school enrollment has increased from 17,249 to 46,061. In 2015, senior exemptions amounted to over $19 million in lost revenue.

This revision will not change those who have senior exemptions and do not have children residing in their homes, the district’s website said. Also, it will not change exemptions for those seniors with legal guardianship of children living in the home. No other homestead exemptions will be affected.

Effective Jan. 1, 2017, homeowners 65 and older who are not the legal guardians of the students residing in rental and residential properties will pay school taxes.

Community breaks ground on Alliance Academy for Innovation

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County’s groundbreaking new school, the Alliance Academy for Innovation, officially broke ground Nov. 17. The school is located at 1100 Lanier 400 Parkway off Ga. 400 and is set to open Aug. 2018.

The school will serve up to 1,200 students in grades 9 through 12 in a “creative and innovative environment,” according to Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden.

This campus will provide secondary, post-secondary and continuing education for individuals, organizations, small businesses and corporations, along with financial literacy and business ethics training for middle and high school students.

The career development opportunities will not duplicate career pathways at existing high schools but will focus on high-demand, high-growth occupations in the region, allowing students to work in simulated environments of business and industry, earn industry credentials and college credit.

The career programs include schools of: criminal justice; healthcare and first responders; mechatronics and logistics; energy and aviation; and hospitality and design.

Census: Forsyth 11th fastest-growing county in nation

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Out of the 100 fastest-growing U.S. counties with 10,000 or more residents, Forsyth County ranked 11th, according to recent data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In April 2010, Forsyth’s estimated population was 175,511. But in July 2015, it was 212,438, an increase of 36,927 or 21 percent.

However even with the population increase, Forsyth is no longer the fastest-growing county in Georgia.

Long County, south of Savannah and near Jesup, took the top spot for the state. It saw a rise of 22.7 percent with a population estimate of 17,731.

Other metro Atlanta counties grew in population, with Fulton County now home to over a million residents. Gwinnett County’s 2015 population estimate was 895,823, Cobb was 741,334, Cherokee 235,900, Hall 193,535 and Dawson 23,312.

The metro Atlanta area still ranks ninth in the nation for largest population.

Forsyth schools continue to top charts

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County Schools continue to top the charts both in metro Atlanta, statewide and nationally.

Some of the accomplishments for this year include:

• Highest College and Career Ready Performance Index score in state

• Highest graduation rate in metro Atlanta (and in district history)

• Highest ACT and SAT math scores in state; highest SAT score in metro Atlanta

• Highest financial efficiency rating in state – the only 5 star rating

• 2nd highest Standard and Poor’s rating in state

• Lowest per pupil cost in metro Atlanta

• Lowest operational millage rate

• Forsyth Central High School teacher Marlo Miranda named a state finalist for 2017 Teacher of the Year

• 2016 ranking of public high schools by U.S. News and World Report listed three Forsyth County high schools among the best in Georgia: South Forsyth ranked 16 in the state, Lambert was at 22 and West Forsyth was listed 24. Nationally, the schools ranked 513 for South Forsyth, 691 for Lambert and 709 for West Forsyth.

• Liberty Middle named Lighthouse School

• Sharon Elementary School honored as Blue Ribbon School

• Denmark High School groundbreaking

• DeSana Middle School and Brandywine Elementary Schools opened

Source: http://www.northfulton.com/stories/A-look-back-on-2016,100190