COVINGTON, Ga. — County commissioners have voted to extend a ban on new residential rezoning requests and subdivision plans until mid-January while they make changes to what officials say are outdated development rules.
The county Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to extend the moratorium to Jan. 18, 2022.
Development Services Director Judy Johnson told commissioners Sept. 21 the moratorium would “just prohibit new subdivisions being planned” and new requests for rezoning property for residential development.
Those wanting to purchase building permits for new residential construction can do so if the lot was already approved before the moratorium began in January of this year, she said.
“This does not affect current buildable lots,” Johnson said. “People can still purchase building permits if the lot is already created.”
It also does not affect plans or permits for new commercial or industrial development, she said.
Johnson has said the moratorium was needed for officials to make badly needed development ordinance changes in the wake of heavy demand for new residential construction in unincorporated Newton County.
She said some developers have taken advantage of rules that allow them to build houses on relatively small lots in some areas of a multi-use subdivision while not properly developing areas reserved for recreation in other parts of the same subdivision.
Commissioners also are considering Johnson’s Sept. 14 recommendation of a new moratorium on acceptance of new residential building lots of less than two acres each.
Johnson said the planning staff was recommending the action so commissioners could make more sweeping changes to residential development standards before submitting a state-mandated Comprehensive Land Use Plan by 2023.
County planning officials have asked commissioners to consider the changes because of outdated regulations that allow no connectivity between adjacent neighborhoods.
She said lack of connecting roads was not a problem when west Newton County was not as densely populated in the early 1990s.
However, rapid population growth has combined with lack of connecting roads to create heavy traffic volumes on some main roads which generally only contain two lanes, Johnson said.
The land use plan is part of a required overall comprehensive plan that also must include such information as community goals, broadband availability and planned capital improvements.
State law requires local governments statewide to submit the document every five years to maintain qualified local government certification and remain eligible for some state funding and grants.
Also Tuesday, the board approved a variety of changes to the county’s development ordinance.
Among the changes were some to effectively stop construction of truck stops in the three overlay zoning districts in unincorporated Newton County.
The Almon, Salem and Brick Store overlay districts add extra requirements for such items as building materials and setbacks from property lines on top of the base zoning requirements for residential, commercial and industrial zones.
Johnson said the change would not affect construction of “travel centers” such as Buc-ee’s or the recently approved JP Center.
Such centers are designed for interstate highway travelers and families and do not have fueling facilities or overnight parking for commercial tractor-trailer drivers, Johnson said.
Commissioners voted for the change after recently approving a negotiated settlement of a lawsuit a developer filed after being denied a rezoning for a truck stop at I-20 and Georgia Hwy. 11 in east Newton.