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Newton planning commissioners bypass objections, approve home daycare, retail center
Townhome development near Three Ring Studio, new single-family subdivision also get nods from board
Fairview Road townhome opponents
Broderick L. Johnson Sr. discusses a plan for townhomes on Fairview Road that was later withdrawn March 16 amid heavy opposition from neighboring residents. Planning commissioners approved a single-family subdivision plan with little opposition on the same site May 25. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Neighbors' objections failed to sway Newton County planning commissioners from approving two projects that departed from current zoning restrictions in adjacent areas recently.

The planning commission voted May 25 to give final approval to a daycare facility to operate inside an area zoned residential near Porterdale.

Planning commissioners also recommended the Newton County Board of Commissioners approve a rezoning for a multi-use commercial project at Salem and Smith Store roads despite neighbors' predictions of increased traffic congestion on Salem Road and their property values decreasing.

Chess’Mia James was able to gain final approval for an administrative use permit from the planning commission to operate a daycare center in her home on a site zoned R2 (Single-Family Residential) because she said she planned to serve a maximum of six children.

A request for more than six children would have required James to receive a conditional use permit that required Board of Commissioners approval, according to information from the county Department of Development Services.

James said she planned to operate a Christian-based daycare facility at the end of a cul-de-sac at 13 Manor Oak Drive.

She said she recently received a degree in Early Childhood Education and wanted to create a program to prepare children up to age 5 for kindergarten.

James said she planned to operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and use her home as a daycare for only a year while she looked for a different location.

She said she planned to communicate with parents in a way that prevented vehicles from lining up for child dropoffs.

Supporters of James' plan also told planning commissioners she showed she was a "leader" in starting a business.

However, nearby resident Betty Tanquary said she could not recall anyone operating a daycare in the neighborhood in her 25 years of living there.

She also complained that a daycare would hinder traffic flow on Manor Oak Drive because it would add more vehicles to those already parking on the street.

Another resident said he and his wife had lived on Manor Oak Drive for six years. He said they were in their 70s and chose their home because it was on a cul-de-sac.

His home also is adjacent to the daycare site which he said lacks "even the short term parking that a day care business would need to operate."

He also said covenants restrict houses within the subdivision to residential use only.

However, county attorney Paul Frickey said covenants on subdivisions are civil matters and do not affect actions of the planning commission.

Zoning administrator Tracy Hernandez said James had met all requirements for an administrative use permit.

She said James agreed to install a minimum four-foot fence around any play area as required by state law.

James also would be required to pass a fire inspection, and secure a state daycare license and a county business license.

Planning commissioner Vivian Richardson motioned for approval and the vote was unanimous.

Neighboring residents in west Newton also were unable to convince planning commissioners to deny Conyers-based CSCL Holdings LLC’s request for a rezoning for construction of offices and a fast-food restaurant on a 6.6-acre site on Salem Road at Smith Store Road.

Residents of the nearby Westminster subdivision said the rezoning would lead to development that would further congest the two-lane Salem Road and decrease their property values.

Nancy Penn, a longtime resident of Smith Store Road, said she wanted commissioners to deny the rezoning to prevent further commercial development of the area that she admitted was in the county's future land use plans for the area.

"We want our residential area," Penn said. "We want it to stay that way."

The request for a change from its current residential zoning to CH (Highway Commercial) was consistent with the intent of the county's Comprehensive Plan and with the Future Land Use Map, planning staff members said.

Planning Commissioner Ronnie Glover said GDOT plans call for widening of Salem Road, which is Georgia Hwy. 162, around the time developers were completing their multi-use project.

The planning commission then voted to recommend the Board of Commissioners give final approval to the rezoning at the Board’s June 15 meeting. 

Newton County Planning Commission also voted to approve:

• A request from Jim Chapman Communities of Atlanta to rezone 35 acres at City Pond Road and Georgia Hwy. 142 from M2 (Heavy Industrial) to RMF (Multi-Family Residential) to develop a 226-unit townhome development near Three Ring Studio.

Developer Jim Chapman told commissioners he planned an upscale community called Studio Village with rents in the $1,650 range. 

The rezoning request moves to the Board of Commissioners for final approval.

• A preliminary plat for a 52-lot residential subdivision called Covington Creek on 20.47 acres at 3539, 3480, 3489 and 3549 Fairview Road.

Chris Harrell is the applicant and developer of the site, which was already zoned R3 (Single Family Residential).

A related applicant, Summit Engineering Consulting, previously had sought a rezoning to Multi-Family for townhomes on the same site but the planning commission recommended denial amid heavy neighborhood opposition earlier this year.

Approved preliminary plats move to county planning staff members for administrative reviews and final plat approval rather than the county commission.