The Newton County Board of Commissioners has objected to a proposed annexation by the city of Porterdale of approximately 16 acres located on the Covington Bypass.
The BOC is objecting to the annexation on the grounds that not enough information was submitted to the county in the city's annexation proposal. The BOC passed a resolution objecting to the annexation at their bi-monthly meeting on Aug. 21.
According to Jenny Carter, an attorney with County Attorney Tommy Craig's office, the BOC decided to object because there was only a limited time frame during which Georgia law would allow the county to raise an objection once an annexation had been officially proposed.
Georgia law allows a period of 20 working days for a county to state any "bona fide land use classification issues" according to the resolution passed by the BOC.
"Basically it's a request for more information; the initial thing that Porterdale sent didn't have a lot of information," said Carter of the county's objection. "At this point we just felt there wasn't enough information coming from Porterdale."
In their objection, the county raised concerns that the annexation and rezoning to general commercial of 15.8 acres of land on the Covington Bypass would transform the road "into a commercial artery for medium to high-intensity commercial uses which is directly contrary to the intended use of the bypass as a thoroughfare for traffic."
Whitehorse LLC owns the 15.8 acres in question which are adjacent to Middle Ridge Elementary School. The development company is proposing to develop the land as a retail center with 87,800 square feet of retail space spread out across three buildings.
Whitehorse LLC also owns 31 acres of land across the street from the 15.8 acres which was annexed by Porterdale two years earlier according to attorney Frank Turner Jr. who represents Whitehorse. The 31 acres are already zoned general commercial and are being developed as a mixed use development with a commercial component. The two projects are being developed separately.
According to the resolution, the county is concerned that the proposed commercial development of the 15.8 acres would require extended and widened roads as well as expanded city services such as police, fire, water and sewer.
The county is also concerned that it cannot fully estimate the potential impacts on watersheds, property values, neighboring residents and aesthetics.
"The proposed commercial development's traffic would significantly impair public safety and hinder the flow of traffic on adjacent roads, in particular the Covington Bypass, which was built to be a public throughway, not a springboard for commercial development," reads the resolution.
According to the resolution, the county will withdraw its objections to the annexation if Porterdale adopts watershed protection regulations substantially like those of the county's as a condition of the city's approval of the proposed commercial development and if the city provides the county with detailed plans, studies, maps and engineering reports which demonstrate how timely and properly funded improvements to the local infrastructure would adequately support the increased intensity of the annexed land.
Despite the strong language of the resolution, county officials and Porterdale officials appear to be fairly confident that the city will be able to respond adequately to the county's concerns and that the county will remove its opposition to the annexation.
Porterdale City Manager Tom Fox said that he was not surprised that the county objected to the annexation.
"They've got criteria that they've got to follow as far as county planning and land use," Fox said. "We understand that they have some concerns and we're happy to work with them and address any issues that they might have. We will start our review and have a response back to them but right now we haven't prepared anything yet.
"I think that they've got an excellent planning department and they're asking good questions," continued Fox. "I think that reflects wisely on Newton County government to ask for more information. We feel confident that we can answer all of their questions and resolve any issues."
Added Turner, "We're hopeful that we can allay any concerns that the county may have. The sales tax generated by this commercial development is going to be extremely beneficial to the city of Porterdale's budget going forth."