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Newton board split on I-20 warehouse approval, Salem Road office denial
Newton County Historic Courthouse
The Historic Courthouse in Covington where the Newton County Board of Commissioners meets. - photo by File Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County commissioners recently struggled to put to rest some contentious zoning issues opposed by nearby residents.

The board of commissioners narrowly voted to approve and deny separate rezoning requests for controversial commercial projects planned for heavily traveled parts of the county's west end.

County commissioners went against the county planning board's recommendation and voted 3-2 to approve a rezoning request to allow construction of a warehouse distribution center on a 28-acre site fronting the north side of I-20 at the Rockdale County line.

Commissioners Stan Edwards, Demond Mason and Ronnie Cowan voted for the rezoning from R-2 (Single Family Residential) to M-1 (Light Industrial) for the proposed 20 East Logistics Center at 2001 Dogwood Drive. 

The approval included a number of conditions, such as developer Native Development Group paying for road improvements for the planned 320,000-square-foot warehouse.  

Development Services Director Judy Johnson said the staff wanted a traffic light analysis and traffic study for the site, which is on a frontage road of I-20 adjacent to the Almon Road bridge over I-20, across from the new Lidl distribution center.

Patrick Carter, representing property owner Cleveland Stroud, said most of the traffic would go through Rockdale County to get to the site of the planned $28 million facility.

He said he knew opponents had referred to the fact the facility did not yet have a tenant. However, 75% of logistics centers are built before a tenant is secured and the developer should have no trouble finding one, Carter said.

“Demand for this type of facility is at an all-time high,” he said.

Attorney Stephanie Lindsey said Stroud inherited the land and there is more demand for a warehouse than residential construction on the site, she said.

But Commissioner Alana Sanders, who represents District 3 that includes the site, said she supported nearby residents.

She said they were concerned about the impact of another warehouse on their homes when Lidl was already building a distribution center nearby.

After the vote, Commissioner J.C. Henderson criticized Mason, a Democrat, for voting with the two Republican members to approve the plan.

“Once again our Republicans have taken over District 3,” he said.

Mason said his votes are not taken based on party affiliation.

“It’s not about what I’m called, it’s what I answer to. And I don’t answer to anything I don’t live up to,” he said.

By the same 3-2 vote, county commissioners went against the planning board's recommendation again and voted to deny a rezoning for construction of an office complex that some nearby residents said would add to existing traffic congestion along Salem Road.

The request by CSCL Holdings was for a change from its current R2 (Single Family Residential) to CH (Highway Commercial) to establish “multiple uses to include office use and fast food restaurant.”

Johnson said developers had proposed installing a 25-foot buffer area, including a privacy fence.

Lindsey, who is a principal in CSCL Holdings, said the site is “more ideal” for an office or salon than a fast-food restaurant.

But Nancy Penn, a Smith Store Road resident, said residents bought their homes with the intentions of being in a residential area.

Lawrence Edwards of nearby Westminster subdivision said his neighbors are not in favor of the plan. Other retail and restaurants, such as Walmart and Chick-fil-A, already exist in the area.

Mason, who made a motion for denial, said he represented the area and its residents told him development of the site would worsen traffic on Salem Road.

The vote was 3-2 with Mason, Sanders and Henderson voting for denial and Cowan and Edwards opposing the denial.