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County planning board rejects west Newton townhome rezoning
Narrowly approves change in future land use map for separate townhome complex on Hwy. 142
Fairview townhouse
Engineers showed Newton County planning commissioners this rendering of townhomes planned for Fairview Road. - photo by Special Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. — County planning commissioners opposed changes to zoning for one new multi-family project and narrowly approved another Tuesday.

The Newton County Planning Commission unanimously voted to deny a rezoning for construction of 120 townhomes on Fairview Road, and narrowly voted to recommend a change in the Future Land Use Map to allow future townhome construction targeting senior renters on Georgia Hwy. 142.

The planning commission makes recommendations on proposed changes in zoning and future land use to the Newton County Board of Commissioners, which makes the final decision.

The Fairview Road request was for a rezoning from its current single-family residential designation to multi-family residential on a 25-acre site on Fairview Road south of the Ginn vehicle dealership on Access Road west of Covington.

Rezoning was needed for construction of a 120-unit, owner-occupied townhouse complex, said Chris Harrell of Summit Engineering Development.

The site is adjacent to the 318-unit Cobblestone apartment complex that planning commissioners approved for a 35-acre site in October. 

It also is near Fairview Elementary School and Clements Middle School.

A plan that Harrell showed planning commissioners included two entrances to the site — including one that created an intersection with Fairclift Drive and the Fairclift subdivision.

Both entrances on the plans showed them connected to long drives that crossed over a creek and led to townhouses at the rear of the site.

But area residents who spoke during an open forum part of the meeting broadcast on the Zoom digital platform complained the townhomes could increase traffic congestion on Fairview, possibly decrease property values, and further overcrowd area schools.

They noted Fairview Road is a two-lane county road where traffic backs up from its intersection with Access Road and speeding vehicles are safety hazards.

Broderick Johnson Sr. said he was concerned about young townhome residents wandering into neighboring subdivisions because plans did not appear to include any recreational facilities.

Sandra Hines said she bought a home in the area after retiring and did not want further development along Fairview to increase congestion in the area.

“It’s not fair to us,” she said. “We do not want any apartment complexes or townhomes in this area.”

Zoning Administrator Tracy Hernandez said the planning staff’s conditions included wanting the developer to complete a traffic study of the area. 

She noted Fairview Road was considered a minor collector road, which is defined as a road that connects local roads with major arterials such as highways and interstates.

Harrell said the plan included a swimming pool and clubhouse and 10 acres available for recreational activities. A homeowners association will oversee such activities as lawn care and maintenance, he said.

He said he had no problem with staff recommendations for addition of left turn and deceleration lanes into the entrances.

Backups were a problem on Fairview but it was a county government responsibility, Harrell said. New townhomes will not have a major effect on the traffic flow, he said.

Harrell added that he met with one homeowners association president and wanted to meet more residents before the Board of Commissioners votes on it.

In other action, planning commissioners narrowly voted to recommend a Future Land Use Map change for a 35-acre site on Georgia Hwy. 142 at City Pond Road.

The site is near the Covington city limits and is in area reserved for Industrial use on the Future Land Use Map. Applicant Jim Chapman Communities wanted its use changed to High Density Residential.

A change would clear the way for the applicant to request a later rezoning of the site, which is now in the Heavy Industrial zone, officials said.

Michael Canady of Jim Chapman Communities said the change is requested for eventual construction of more than 200 two- and three-bedroom rental units for people ages 50 and up with incomes of at least $60,000.

He said the complex will target a segment of the senior market that no longer wants to own a home or maintain yards.

The site is adjacent to Cinelease Studios-Three Ring and those living in the complex and employed there would be able to walk to work, he said.

Commissioner Jody Smith said the highway needed improvement. 

Pastor Darryl Hooper of nearby Church at Covington asked how owners would be able to keep requiring high-income earners to be residents. Area resident David Mock said he did not want more residential development in the area because he “moved to get out” of an urban area.

Others questioned why Canady was not developing townhomes for sale to provide a more stable community.

He said the community’s target customers do not want to own a home.

Planning commissioners voted 3-2 to recommend the Future Land Use Map change.