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Porterdale board recommends council deny zoning for $215M Oaks project
Barbara Jackson
Barbara Jackson tells Porterdale Planning Commission Tuesday about the hazards she faces even when pulling into her driveway off Crowell Road. - photo by Tom Spigolon

PORTERDALE, Ga. — Porterdale’s planning commission is telling the city council it should not rezone a golf course for a planned multi-million-dollar residential and retail development after hearing nearby residents say it would worsen traffic on already-congested Crowell Road.

The city planning commission voted 4-1 to recommend the council deny the request from Covington-based Infinity Homes and Development LLC for a mix of residential and commercial zonings for construction of the 270-acre The Oaks development at the corner of Brown Bridge and Crowell roads.

The estimated $215 million project would replace the 30-year-old Oaks golf course with 142 single-family homes, 190 townhomes, 360 apartments and a 143,000-square-foot area for retail development clustered along the site’s south and west sides. 

Infinity owner Brad Mitchell estimated its completion in five years.

Architect Adam Kirk of Thomas & Hutton estimated about 1,700 people may reside in The Oaks after its 692 housing units of all types are built and occupied. 

Its only three entrances will be on Crowell Road, Kirk said.

The 108-acre east side of the site nearest Brown Bridge Road borders the Yellow River and is in a floodplain, Kirk said. 

The existence of the floodplain led the developer to leave about half of the site undeveloped or part of a planned nine-hole, par-3 golf course, Kirk said.

However, residents of areas on and near Crowell Road told planning commissioners the plan would worsen traffic on the two-lane road that is already overcrowded and connects to an I-20 interchange about two miles north of the site. 

Many said the developer had “placed the cart before the horse” because Mitchell should have completed a traffic study and met with county schools and roads officials to determine the impact before asking for the rezoning.

Barbara Jackson said she had lived in her Crowell Road home for 30 years and had her vehicle struck by traffic three times as she turned in her driveway. 

Deborah Nolley said she was unable to make a left turn out of her driveway because of traffic on Crowell Road and was forced to take a longer route to the Tuesday night meeting. 

Kirk said that developers typically wait to see if government officials approve their requests for preliminary plans before spending the money on often-costly traffic and geotechnical studies.

However, he also said he will work with county transportation officials to find out when the county will conduct a Crowell Road traffic study so the developer will know what improvements The Oaks can include in its plan to improve traffic flow.

Mitchell said he was a Newton County native and resident and was aware of the traffic congestion on Crowell Road. 

“I was born and raised here,” he said. “I get the concerns about traffic.”

Denise Williams also said the schools and public safety agencies did not have the capacity to handle the increased population. 

Crowell Road resident Kim Young asked if housing in Mitchell’s development would 

be “low income.”

Mitchell — who also is developing the similarly planned Cedar Shoals mixed-use project in Porterdale — said apartments would be “luxury” with resort-styled amenities. 

A homeowners association would be in place for the houses and townhomes. 

Price ranges would be around $250,000 for townhomes and $270,000 to $350,000 for single-family homes — which would be at least 1,800 square feet, Mitchell said.

Young said she was not convinced and echoed others in saying studies should have been completed before the new development was released to the public.

“It is going to be a nightmare,” she said. “I’m putting my house up for sale.”

City Manager Frank Etheridge said the city would address the need for more Porterdale police protection by budgeting for it as the population increases.

He said Mitchell’s plan was consistent with residential and commercial development patterns in the area. It also is one of the largest undeveloped sites in the county, he said.

Etheridge also said the city staff recommended approval of the rezonings and would address the entrance points to the site in a later review.

He read a lengthy series of conditions the developer must meet on everything from roof designs and building materials for residential structures, to limitations on noise levels from speakers at restaurant drive-through lanes.

Rick Vaida was the lone commissioner to vote against denial of the rezoning. He told the audience they needed to tell the county government about the Crowell Road traffic problems because it is responsible for maintaining the road.

“You need to be in their face,” Vaida said. “All we’re trying to do is improve Porterdale.”

Mitchell said he would now take the request to the Porterdale City Council at its Monday, June 7, meeting.