Swap Forsyth County Park OK for Polo Fields | Forsyth News

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Nearly 100 residents showed up Feb. 3 when the Forsyth County Commission voted to swap part of Denmark’s new park for property developed for sports at the polo fields.

The vote was 5-0.

The deal cedes just under two-thirds of Denmark’s parkland – 50 acres – for nearly 39 acres to Polo Fields, including its six football pitches.

A total of 19 residents spoke to commissioners on the matter during public comments. The sentiment was shared almost equally.

Some Forsyth residents oppose Denmark’s park land swap

Resident Lisa Calloway spoke out passionately against the land swap, accusing the county of hiding the deal until the vote.

As the commission approved the purchase of Polo Fields, she and several other residents opposed to the deal stood up and left the room. Residents in favor of the deal cheered.

“They told us in December they would have a town hall, and they didn’t,” Calloway said as he left the commission chambers. “We all come to this meeting and make a public comment, but it was very clear that they had already decided.”

Forsyth County proposes town hall to discuss future of Denmark’s park

Resident Mike Melz spoke to the commissioners in favor of preserving the polo fields. He said the fields have become one of Forsyth County’s historic landmarks, the county’s “crown jewel”.

Speaking after the vote, Melz said he was pleased that the polo fields were preserved.

“When you look at the history of the polo grounds, Prince Charles played polo there with the British Royal Polo Team,” Melz said. “It’s history. It is definitely something to cherish.

Melz said he was not thrilled about the possibility of Denmark’s park land being turned into homes, but that it made more sense to abandon the park.

Under the terms of the agreement, the county will purchase the Polo Fields property for $7.5 million.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the deal was contingent on the county collecting at least the same amount from the sale of the Denmark Park property. He said if the county is unable to sell the portion of Denmark Park for at least $7.5 million by June 6, the agreement to purchase Polo Fields is terminated unless it is modified before that date.

Developers have made efforts in recent years to rezone polo grounds to allow for residential and commercial developments. Residents around the park in Denmark say they fear those development plans will now shift to park land.

The commission bought the first land that became Denmark’s park in 2018 and budgeted $12 million for its development. When money got tight in 2020, the commission opted to divert those funds to improve existing parks.

Denmark’s park master plan moves forward

District 3 County Commissioner Todd Levent, whose district covers Denmark’s park, spoke out against the embezzlement.

Polo Fields, about 5 miles northeast of the park, also falls within the Levent District. Levent said he wished the county had the money to buy Polo Fields and keep Denmark Park, but it was not possible. He said it would take eight years before the county had the funds to develop football pitches at Denmark Park, and topography would limit it to four pitches.

“We don’t blindly do mean things for people,” Levent said in an interview before the vote. “It’s just that right now we desperately need six pitches for these kids and we’re juggling what we have and our resources to maintain those pitches.”

County commissioners informally agreed at a meeting on December 2 to hold a town hall regarding the land swap before the vote, but the meeting never took place.

Meanwhile, residents near the park mounted a campaign to end the deal.

Kay Veal, who sold most of the park’s acreage to the county three years ago, said she and her late husband turned down millions of dollars in offers from developers. She said her late husband was opposed to the property being covered with houses.

“My husband just didn’t want houses on his farm,” Veal said. “We turned down $10 million because he didn’t want any houses on the property. Now it looks like they are going to put houses on the property.

To reach Jake Drukman at 770-847-8334. Follow him on Twitter @DrukmanJake.

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