The overlay promotes modern development guidelines, such as:
-sidewalks and paths to promote walkability and bicycling
-clustering businesses together so as to avoid the number of curb cuts (entrances and exits) as many can be dangerous and impair traffic flow
-increasing building density to preserve green space and common space
-placing commercial parking, which is generally thought of as less aesthetic, behind buildings, so that the more aesthetically pleasing facades face the street
-eliminating large commercial signs on tall poles
-requiring commercial buildings to use higher-quality materials like brick, stone and stucco
-requiring commercial buildings to have aesthetically pleasing facades, including sufficient windows and architectural details, and to have those facades differ from each other
-requiring similar quality requirements and variation in design for homes, including not having garages be the main feature facing toward the street
-having landscaping and streetscape requirements for aesthetic sake
The Brick Store Overlay generally covers the area surrounding the Ga. Highway 11 and U.S. Highway 278 intersection, going:
-north past Interstate 20
-south past Patrick Road
-west to Green Valley Farm
-east to Country Walk Road
The overlay is divided into three tiers:
-Tier 1 is the lightest use, mainly residential with some simple, small scale neighborhood commercial uses that would serve the neighborhood itself, like a bakery or small flower or gift shop
-Tier 2 is traditional suburban commercial development that would appeal to people highway travelers
-Tier 3 is mixed-use development (meaning developments contain at least two uses among commercial, residential, office/institutional and civic)
The vision being carried out by Newton County’s leaders is one of controlled growth and high-quality development; however, it’s clear many large land owners are concerned about how this vision will affect their ability to sell their land.
The Brick Store Overlay being developed by county officials would put an extra set of development regulations on the properties that fall within the overlay’s proposed boundary — meaning residential and commercial developers would have to build higher-quality developments — but opinions still differ about what these regulations should look like.
A third public meeting to discuss the overlay was held Wednesday, and several residents expressed confusion and concern; however, officials stressed they’re trying to build a consensus, something that won’t be unanimous given the vast number of property owners in the overlay.
The overlay follows in the footsteps of two overlays the county passed previously in the Almon Road and Salem Road areas. The Brick Store Overlay is named for the historic Brick Store building, which was a famous stagecoach stop.
What’s in the overlay?
“In order to create a more livable Brick Store area, the Overlay encourages the creation of clusters of close knit growth that keep the small town charm of Newton County. The Overlay also intends to focus development as envisioned in the 2050 Plan and the Comprehensive Plan. By focusing quality development within the Overlay, the Overlay sets the state for preserving farmland and open space elsewhere in the county,” according to the overlay’s set of regulations.
The overlay, in line with the 2050 Plan, seeks to avoid commercial and residential sprawl, and instead create walkable, high-quality town centers in different areas of the county that have historically been gathering spots, such as the Brick Store, Salem, Almon and Oak Hill communities.
Why the opposition?
There are three main reasons why residents aren’t unanimously lining up to support the overlay.
Higher costs a barrier?
First and foremost, better design generally means more expensive buildings. More expensive design and construction costs means, theoretically at least, not as many companies can afford to locate in an area, which would reduce the number of potential buyers for local landowners.
However, several officials pointed to the recent decisions by McDonald’s and Dollar General to locate in the area. While the overlay is not in place, both companies still had to meet more strict building and design requirements.
Jahnee Prince, with The Collaborative Firm, which was hired to create the overlay, said those companies have multiple designs for multiple requirements, as do companies like Walmart and many others. If major retailers decide to locate in an area, extra construction costs may not scare them away.
The more concerning aspect could actually be hindering mom-and-pop developments; however, the tradeoff would be allowing lower quality development.
Brenda Stanton, whose family recently sold land to the Dollar General, said she had concerns despite the recent success.
“Everything we asked the Dollar General gentlemen to put in place cost more. They were willing to do it. We saw the plan; it’s a beautiful plan, but not every business is going to be able to do that,” Stanton said Wednesday. “I think if we’re not careful, we will keep some businesses from coming in. That may or may not be good keeping them out.”
Why is Mt. Pleasant exempt?
Another major issue for landowners, is the fact that they felt they were unlucky enough to fall within the overlay. If those same owners had owned land just outside the boundary they wouldn’t have to follow the same requirements. Cries of the unfairness of the process have been heard.
One aspect that’s caused consternation is the fact there is an area that is being allowed to develop as it was originally planned. The Mt. Pleasant development, which was approved by the Board of Commissioners in 2006, supersedes the Brick Store Overlay in some instances.
Mt. Pleasant is a master planned “town” to be developed around Georgia Perimeter College with single-family homes, townhomes, lofts above retail shops and office space, mid-rise senior flats, large retail, greenspace and the college’s footprint.
Given the fact the Mt. Pleasant was separately approved by the Board of Commissioners and has a very specific layout that takes into many similar concepts to the overlay, it will supersede the overlay. However, any issues not addressed by Mt. Pleasant will still be subject to the overlay.
What’s in a look?
Another issue that not everyone has the same taste in development standards. While modern development standards are inherently popular, several residents said they didn’t necessarily agree with the specifics chosen in the overlay.
“It’s subjective,” said John Degonia, who sat on the smaller steering committee of area residents that led the planning effort before seeking input from all property owners in the area.
What’s the hope?
“We’re looking for upscale neighborhoods that will cater to upper middle-class people, and we’re trying to follow through with that theme,” he said referring to Edwardsville, Illinois and Athens.
He said if the county can build off the presence of Georgia Perimeter College and start to attract quality business, the price of land and buildings will go up for all owners.
“And we’ll all get richer.” Degonia said.
Degonia said he doesn’t want more regulation, but he said it’s necessary when growth and density increases and people begin to crowd each other.
The Board of Commissioners and the county Planning Commission is hosting a work session at 6 p.m. June 10 at the Historic Courthouse on the Covington Square.
After that, the Planning Commission will have a public hearing at 7 p.m. June 24 at the Historic Courthouse, and the Board of Commissioners will have its public hearing at 7:30 p.m. July 1 at the same location.
For more information and copies of several documents go to CovNews.com and the overlay’s website at brickstore.wordpress.com.