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BOC summary: Developments of Community Impact zoning approved
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After District 1 Commissioner John Douglas requested any language of burial be removed and the acreage increased from four to 10 acres, the Newton County Board of Commissions approved a change to its zoning ordinance to include a new category — Developments of Community Impact.

The new zoning ordinance was to designate developments of community impact as those greater than four acres, but Douglas’s late request was to increase that size to 10 acres.

The zoning change passed by a vote of 3-2. The planning commission voted unanimously against the changes prior to Douglas’s alterations.

The passage of the zoning ordinance to define Developments of Community Impact came after months of controversy. Newton County Development staff was asked to look at the county’s ordinance during a five-week moratorium imposed by the BOC following the announcement of a 162-acre proposed mosque to be built on Highway 162 and County Line Road in August.

The BOC held a public hearing on the proposed mosque and called a meeting to repeal the moratorium earlier than the stated five weeks. However, a threat of protests by an armed militia, caused the BOC to cancel the meeting and allow the moratorium to end on Sept. 21.

Since then the planning commission created the Developments of Community Impact, which is broken down into three categories: place of public assembly, large-scale developments and residential developments.

For places of public assembly and large-scale developments, if a project encompasses 10 acres or more or a structure of more than 10,000 feet it will require approval by development services and the BOC. For residential developments, those of 50 acres or more or 10,000 dwelling units will also require development service and BOC approval.

Newton County requesting scenic route status for Hwy. 11

An application will be submitted to the Georgia Department of Transportation to apply for scenic byway status for approximately 13 miles of Highway 11.

The scenic byway would stretch from near Social Circle on the north end to beyond Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center on the south end. Highway 11 in Jasper County is already marked as a scenic route. Newton County Planner Shana Applewhite said the route in Newton County has some of the same qualities as it does in Jasper County, leading her to believe the scenic route will be designated in Newton County.

When asked what the cost of the scenic route would be Newton County Manager Lloyd Kerr said the county would be responsible for signage along the route and staff to create a corridor management plan.

Convenience center contract terminated

The BOC voted 3-2 to send a letter of termination to Junior Hilliard concerning the contract to operate the Newton County Trash Collection Centers.

The contract will expire Feb. 5, leaving the centers closed if the Solid Waste Authority does not find an alternate option to keep all or some of the 11 centers open.

SWA given budget, service commencement date

The Newton County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) was given the county’s solid waste budget of $2,292,210 to operate Tuesday.

The SWA was also granted a service commencement date of Nov. 16, 2016. The SWA will assume all authority and operation of the solid waste stream starting Wednesday.

BOC looks to name road after Middleton

District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims requested that a portion of Brown Bridge Road —from Highway 212 to Salem Road — be renamed to honor Newton County’s first County Manager, the late John Middleton.

The BOC requested the renaming of the road to John Middleton Memorial Highway be added to the agenda for its Dec. 6 meeting.

Creation of new position tabled

 A new position, to be a liaison to the filming industry, will not be created within Newton County after a unanimous decision by the BOC Tuesday night.

The employee in this position would deal with filming as well as handling reporting of impact fees, according to Kerr. The money for the new position was to come from proceeds from any special events or activities at Gaither Plantation, which is owned by the county, as well as film revenue received at the county.

However, the creation of the position didn’t carry favor with the commissioners, who said it wouldn’t be a financially prudent move with the county’s current budget constraints.

“It seems to me with all the strains we have right now within the county that there are several departments that need more employees,” District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims said. “At this time, I think it’s not wise for us to move forward with this position. If there is an opportunity with the 2018 budget, I think that would be a more appropriate time to take a look at it.”

The BOC tabled the issue indefinitely.