COVINGTON, Ga. — County commissioners stalled a plan for construction of a Dollar General on Brown Bridge Road after one commissioner said area residents wanted stores “that fit them” and had complained the retailer allegedly disregarded customer service and security at its existing locations.
They also voted Tuesday, Jan. 18, to extend a moratorium on new applications for rezonings and preliminary plats for residential developments until April 19 — though new plats that feature minimum two-acre sites would be allowed to proceed.
District 3 Commissioner Alana Sanders said she was responding to residents’ wishes in asking the Newton County Board of Commissioner to vote to deny a conditional use permit for the 10,640-square-foot store after a Jan. 6 community meeting that allowed live attendance and was livestreamed.
Sanders said nearby Fairview Road residents have incomes of $65,000 to $70,000 “and some making six figures.”
“They love growth. They want to have growth. But they want to have stores that are in their area that fit them and that’s what they want in the area where they live,” she said.
“Dollar General has a culture of a lack of quality customer service and ample security,” Sanders said, in quoting residents’ complaints.
Residents also complained that no traffic signal was planned at the intersection where the three-acre site is located, she said.
She said they also complained that Dollar General stores on Salem Road and Hwy. 81 each had been robbed at least once in less than five years; and Bell’s grocery store already operates nearby on Brown Bridge Road, Sanders said. Dollar General also offers groceries in its stores.
“I’m a commissioner who listens to my citizens who actually voted me in,” Sanders said. “They live in the community.”
Sanders also said residents complained a Dollar General store was located “less than a mile away” on Salem Road.
However, a check of the distance on Google Maps showed the store at 3227 Salem Road is almost five miles from the site.
Before the unanimous vote for denial, County Development Services director Judy Johnson told commissioners the planning staff had recommended they approve the permit based on the developers, SW West Covington LLC and Johnbolt Properties LLC, agreeing to a series of conditions.
Some conditions included installation of an eight-foot wooden privacy fence and landscaping along the north edge of the site to buffer it from a neighboring property on Kirkland Road; and construction of a deceleration lane for vehicles entering the store site from Brown Bridge Road, Johnson said.
A site plan already included a 20-foot buffer area that included a three-foot landscaping area along the east side.
The developers had argued in an earlier meeting that a brick-covered Dollar General with a landscaped lot would have a better appearance than the building now on the site.
On the moratorium extension, Johnson told commissioners it was needed so the planning staff could finalize updates to the county ordinance to make badly-needed changes in requirements for new residential developments.
She said one area of concern was traffic flow countywide. Changes were needed to require developers to install deceleration lanes and add more connecting roads between neighboring subdivisions, she said.
A delay until April 19 would allow the planning staff time to prepare amendments to the county ordinance, she said. It also would allow the staff to host Feb. 1 and Feb. 15 work sessions to explain the changes before final approval by the Board March 15, Johnson said.
The Board voted 4-1 to extend the moratorium but allow preliminary plats for new homes on minimum two-acre tracts to proceed.
Commissioner J.C. Henderson — the lone vote against the extension — said he was concerned about those wanting to develop large tracts being told they have to wait three more months to begin the process. The moratorium has been in effect since January 2021.
In other action at the Jan. 18 meeting, the Board of Commissioners:
• Voted to approve a $27,500 contract with Sunbelt Builders for design of a system to provide emergency power to the county Administration Building.
• Voted to set qualifying fees of $750 each for candidates for two county commission seats; and $432 for candidates for three school board seats up for election this year.
• Voted to allow Newton County Animal Services to apply for a Petco training grant; Fire Services to apply for a Firehouse Subs Foundation Grant for $12,297 and Wal-Mart Community Grant for $2,850; and a National Public Safety Drone Donation Program Grant.
• Voted to serve as the fiscal agent for the Family Connection nonprofit service agency for 2023.