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August/September 2010

Growing by Leaps & Bounds
Forsyth County is Ideal for Families
by Dawn Sloane Downs


Forsyth County boasts many excellent features that draw thousands of new residents each year. From its still-pristine beauty to an excellent school system, a relatively close proximity to the city of Atlanta, and a host of housing developments to meet almost any taste or income-level, Forsyth County provides an idyllic lifestyle for young families relocating to Georgia.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Forsyth County has been one of the fastest growing counties in the United States since the early 2000s and continues to grow rapidly. The flood of high-income transplants to the area has been so great, Forsyth County was named the 13th wealthiest county in the United States by Forbes magazine in 2009. With a median annual income of over $86,000 per year, it is among Georgia’s two wealthiest counties.

Nestled at the foot of North Georgia’s Appalachian Mountains and just a few miles away from the head of the Appalachian Trail at Amicalola Falls, Forsyth County remains one of Atlanta’s most popular bedroom communities, still relatively untouched by urban sprawl.

Graphic designer Suzanne Geddes moved to Cumming, Forsyth’s county seat, in 1992 when she married husband Shon. The couple along with their two young children lived in Creekside, a John Wieland development for several years, but recently relocated to Coal Mountain in Cumming where Geddes has her own organic garden and raises chickens. “I love Forsyth because it’s close to the mountains, close to the lake, but it’s so easy to get into Atlanta for an event. Of course,” she adds, “there’s so much to do here. We have a great parks and recreation department. Soon they’re going to be adding a new aquatic center and an ice skating rink in addition to all the wonderful outdoor activities they offer for kids and families.”

Geddes hints at a large part of Forsyth County’s appeal. While the county offers lower tax rates than nearby Fulton or Gwinnett counties, the amenities offered to its residents far outshine those offered by surrounding counties. Forsyth County schools are widely regarded as outstanding with most of the county’s schools exceeding state requirements on standardized tests. SAT scores in Forsyth County public schools are also higher than the state average.

In addition to a great public school system, Forsyth County also offers an exceptional array of outdoor activities for both children and adults through its Parks & Recreation department. The department offers a typical assortment of athletic opportunities for children including soccer, basketball, baseball, and softball, but also offers adult leagues in basketball and volleyball. A wide range of instructional classes and camps are available for both adults and children including fitness classes, gymnastics, tennis, art, and dance.

Most impressive, however, are the unique array of outdoor recreational activities afforded by Forsyth County’s easy access to Lake Lanier and other waterways, and beautiful natural areas. Residents can enjoy easy access to Sawnee Mountain Preserve, a pristine 963-acre retreat offering hiking, rock climbing, rappelling, bird watching, canoeing and kayaking, and a host of adventure programs. Forsyth County Parks & Recreation even offers classes in all of those activities plus whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, and spelunking.

For those less adventurous, but still yearning for outdoor time, the Big Creek Greenway is a 12-ft. wide, concrete boardwalk that spans 6.8 miles from McFarland Parkway to Bethelview Road, offering an ideal space to walk, jog, bike, or skate in a beautiful, safe, natural setting. Described as a linear park, the Greenway features natural areas for native plants and animals. When complete, the Greenway will extend for 15 miles through Forsyth County, then south, all the way to Roswell in Fulton County.

With so much to do, excellent schools, and easy access to the big city, it’s no wonder Forsyth County continues to draw new arrivals to Georgia to its popular Cumming and Alpharetta addresses. Although once considered rural and a playground for the wealthy, Forsyth today offers a broad range of housing options.

One of Cumming’s most attractive offerings is Vickery, a mixed-use development that is a true community of its own within the larger Cumming community. Adjacent to Vickery Creek Elementary and Middle Schools, Vickery features a mix of beautifully crafted single-family homes and townhomes. In the center of it all is Vickery Village, a small business district that is also home to the Forsyth County YMCA as well as a variety of businesses from restaurants to upscale boutiques and salons.

Although put on hold during the housing crisis, Hedgewood Homes has renewed construction on Vickery with plans to add 36 new single family homes and 14 new townhomes. According to Fran Marty of Hedgewood Realty, “Townhomes starting at $235,000 will include master bedrooms on the main level with private, walled courtyards. Single-family homes will be priced from the $200s to $600s. We’ve begun construction on two single-family homes on Odell Street. These homes are both single level homes with private walled courtyards and a short walk from the YMCA. These homes are priced at $378,900 and $379,900. Completion of these first two homes is scheduled for October 2010.”

Sharp Residential also has a truly unique offering in its Brandon Hall community in Cumming. According to Realtor Michael Vestal, much of what makes Brandon Hall special comes directly from the vision of Sharp Residential Builder/Developer Tom Sharp. “Tom chooses locations for his developments based on how the homes will fit inside the existing landscape. He prefers sites with lots of trees and works to impact the fewest trees possible. When houses are being built, Tom only builds one lot at a time, meaning that the entire development doesn’t have to be clear-cut. You really get a gorgeous neighborhood, much different than what you see production builders do.”

  Hedgewood Realty's charming neighborhood Vickery was landscaped to look as if "it had always been there."
Prices in Brandon Hall range from $300,000 to the low $400s for three-sided brick homes with exceptional amenities, including four lighted tennis courts, a junior Olympic pool, and a children’s water park. All of the amenities were completed before construction began on homes, meaning that when the first residents moved in, they could take full advantage of everything the neighborhood has to offer.

For those looking for an Alpharetta address, Bowen Family Homes offers Hanover Place on Union Hill Road. The 212-unit development features a clubhouse, playground, pool, and four lighted tennis courts. Homes range in size from 2650 sq. ft. to over 3600 sq. ft. and are in the coveted South Forsyth High School district. Steve Palmer, a Bowen Family Homes representative cites the great school district and the rare inclusion of ranch-style homes in his company’s development as popular features. Homes in Hanover Place range from $300,000 to $400,000.


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