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Posted: November 8, 2012 10:11 p.m.

Efforts continue to land industry

Covington City Council approved changing zoning conditions for Gwinnett Industries on two parcels of land located in the Lochridge Industrial Park in an effort to land prospect Project Dove.

The council approved a request from Gwinnett Industries to reduce the 200 feet setback - an area of land that serves as a buffer - to a 150 feet setback for a parcel of land, which holds a vacant building located on Lochridge Boulevard and a parcel of wooded land located next to the vacant building.

Scott Gaither, senior planner in the city's zoning and planning department, said Gwinnett Industries is the owner of Lochridge Industrial Park, and they had a potential tenant Project Dove, whose operations require a larger building.

According to a narrative from the Planning and Zoning Office, the existing structure located on Lochridge Boulevard the prospect is looking to occupy, would require an expansion of the facility from 202,000 square feet to about 425,000 square feet and the construction of a 600 space automobile parking lot in order to accommodate its employees.

At a previous special called council meeting on Oct. 19, it was said that Project Dove was an existing industry in Covington that could bring an $18 to $20 million investment and 600 jobs to Newton County residents over the next 10 years.

At that meeting, the council unanimously approved offering the industry a 20 percent reduction on electricity rates for two years; a reduction in natural gas rates; waiving building and permit fees; waiving sewer and tap fees; allowing the city manager to negotiate a parking lot lighting lease; and offering a 20 percent discount on storm water fees for two years.

According to the rezoning application from the Planning and Zoning Office, the request to reduce the setback by 50 feet in the parcel of land in the wooded lot is to ensure that construction activity from the expansion does not impact the vegetation providing a visual screening for the Alexander property, which is the southern boundary of property of the subject property.

Gaither said the approved changed zoning conditions are not contingent upon Project Dove and will remain as they have been approved by council.

"Should Project Dove decide to locate somewhere else, this setback has been reduced permanently from 200 feet to 150 feet," Gaither said. "Zoning and conditions of zoning run with the property forever. The only people who can change these conditions is the council."

Russell McKellar, owner of Gwinnett Industries, said they are still in the process of negotiations with the prospect. He said he appreciated the cooperation with the city and that Covington has been a great community to work in.

Because Project Dove is an existing industry, the industry would start out with 900 employees on day one, but assuming a 5 to 6 percent attribution rate, the company would turn over about 600 jobs during a 10-year period, said Roger Harrison, vice president of economic development for the Office of Economic Development, housed out of the local chamber.

"It's advanced manufacturing, which fits our workforce and the wage is above average for our community," Harrison said previously. "It's a good project; we would love to have them come here."

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