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Porterdale council takes no vote but hearing shows divide on Oaks development
Porterdale council
Crowell Road resident Greg Jackson gestures toward developers of The Oaks as he speaks during a public hearing before the Porterdale City Council Monday night. - photo by Tom Spigolon

PORTERDALE, Ga. — Porterdale City Council members were told Monday a planned multi-million-dollar development could either become a major economic contributor or a strain on already overburdened area roads and schools. 

Covington-based Infinity Homes and Development LLC is seeking to replace the historic The Oaks golf course at the corner of Crowell and Brown Bridge roads with a 230-acre mix of single- and multi-family residences and retail development.

Council members heard from residents of both the city and unincorporated county and the developer Monday during a public hearing about a requested series of zoning changes for the estimated $215 million development.

However, state law prevented the city council from taking a vote on the rezoning requests until the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission completes its review of the Development of Regional Impact that Porterdale filed with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for the development.  

After the review is complete — estimated at June 26 — the city “should consider” the regional planning agency’s “comments and findings in making its decisions related to the project,” according to information from the DCA.

Developer Brad Mitchell’s request is for a change in its current mix of single-family residential and light retail zoning to zoning allowing single-family, multi-family and Commercial-General (CG) that would allow a supermarket.

It would replace The 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.

About 60% of the site would be left as open space or part of a planned nine-hole, par-3 golf course because of the existence of a 108-acre floodplain on the east side of the site nearest Brown Bridge Road and the Yellow River.

Residents living near the site but outside the city said it would worsen traffic on already-congested Crowell Road — a major commuter link between central Newton County and I-20.

Mayor Arline Chapman said rumors originally spread through the community that the entire site would be developed as an apartment complex.

“This information was incorrect,” she said.

Crowell Road resident Greg Jackson said he believed developer Brad Mitchell should have completed traffic studies before bringing it to the council.

Jackson said that past county plans had never resulted in a widening of Crowell Road — and may not in the future.

Architect Adam Kirk of Thomas & Hutton said he planned to add needed deceleration lanes to The Oaks site after the county completes its plans for improving both Crowell and Brown Bridge roads.

Cat Hutchinson said the project could be “an opportunity” to create a “fun thing” to attract residents.

“If you made it a fun thing, people wouldn’t be so upset about it,” she said.

Lynn Pynckels, a Covington real estate agent, said she believed the site — already zoned for residential uses — will be developed in the future. A local developer like Mitchell would be better than one from outside the county, she said.

“This property owner is going to sell sooner or later,” she said.

A golf course has operated in various forms through the decades since the 1930s on the same site near the Yellow River, with records indicating legendary golfer Bobby Jones helped design the original course for Porterdale Mills.

Golfers have played the course in its current form since 1990. It has been a Porterdale business since the city annexed it in 2005.

Kirk 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 because the part of the site along Brown Bridge Road is mostly in a floodplain, Kirk said.

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.

The developer will be required to meet a lengthy series of conditions on everything from roof designs and building materials for residential structures, to limitations on noise levels from speakers at restaurant drive-through windows.