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Public helps shape Salem Overlay plan
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Feedback from Newton County residents last month helped shape the latest version of the Salem Road Overlay the Board of Commissioners heard Tuesday night.

Residents and the board were assured that the historic Salem Campground would not be touched. The overlay guidelines require more landscaped buffers will be added to screen homes from "litter, dust, wind, light spill, noise, unsightly views". The ambitious overlay aims to create a combo of commercial development and small towns. The aim is to make it possible for residents to leave their cars at home and simply walk to church, groceries, school and shopping. The overlay is also an attempt to control growth in Newton's dense western side by dividing the area from the Rockdale County line to Ga. Highway 81 into three development tiers. The overlay touches four of Newton's five districts.

"I'm not sure we ever measured the exact number of acres the overlay covers but I know the area includes about 2,300 properties," said Scott Sirotkin, director of the county's development services department.

The mostly residential Tier 1 would take up the majority of the corridor. The list of businesses allowed in Tier 1 include art studios, bakeries, banks, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, cemeteries, dry cleaners, gunsmiths, laundromats, dentists, doctors, churches, farmers' markets, nursing homes and massage studios. RV parks, colleges, pawn shops, department stores, convenience stores with gas pumps, tire stores and parking lots are forbidden.

There is now a process in place so a resident who owns property in Tier 1 and wants to add a commercial business to it, Sirotkin explained. The resident must file a written application fee for a conditional use permit. The application fee is $800 whether the resident owns one or more properties.

Tier 2 would include mixed-use residential and light commercial uses. Tier 3 would have the heaviest commercial use.

Residential areas will have no dead end roads and no cul de sacs. Every parking lot with over 100 spaces must dedicate 1 percent of those spaces to electric vehicles and install a charging station. For every ten dwellings, a neighborhood must provide one bicycle rack.


Original story: The Board of Commissioners canceled its regular meeting this Tuesday to leave plenty of time for a 6 p.m. work session on the Salem Overlay.

“We always get a huge crowd — once we even had to seat people in the balcony — when the Salem Overlay is discussed,” county clerk Jackie Smith said. “There was only one item on the agenda for Tuesday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting. Everyone was sure the Salem Overlay work session would run late, maybe most of the evening.”

That one item on the agenda was the firearm discharge ordinance’s proposed amendment. It will be discussed in a work session at a later date.

The Salem Road Overlay is part of a big picture project that aims to create close-knit communities with groceries, entertainment and other amenities all within walking distance of homes. It is being developed in conjunction with the county’s 2050 plan.

The overlay proposes to divide the Salem Road corridor from the Rockdale County line to Ga. Highway 81 into three different development tiers to provide a balanced blend of commercial and residential.

In other county news, the newly-formed Mansfield Community Center Committee is having its first meeting at 6 p.m., Tuesday at the Mansfield Community Center, 3158 Ga. Highway 11, Mansfield.

The committee is expected to elect its 2013 officers and will also discuss issues with the facility, including a water leak, paint, carpet and re-key unauthorized use.