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Potential benefits, promised 'quality' swayed Porterdale council to Oaks plan
The Oaks
This shows the site plan for The Oaks development. The Porterdale City Council approved rezoning for the project. - photo by Special to The News

PORTERDALE, Ga. — City Council members say they supported a multi-use development planned to replace a longtime golf course because of the potential benefits and its promise of being of “higher quality” compared to what could be built on the site.

The city council on Tuesday voted for a series of zoning changes that clear the way for planning to proceed on converting the 30-year-old The Oaks golf course into a $215 million residential and retail development.

The council voted unanimously to approve Covington-based Infinity Homes and Development LLC’s request for changes to zoning and the future land use map on 270 acres at the corner of Brown Bridge and Crowell roads. Councilman Mike Harper was absent.

Infinity’s plan calls for construction of 142 single-family homes, 190 townhomes, 360 apartments and a 143,000-square-foot area for retail development clustered along the site’s southwest and west sides.

About 60% of the site would be left both as open space and 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.

Developers have projected a completion date of 2025.

Councilman Lowell Chambers said during the Tuesday meeting that city officials can continue to make any needed changes to the plan as it goes through the steps of final approval.

After the meeting, Councilwoman Kay Piper said the council looked at the “big picture” concerning the plan despite the city planning commission’s recommendation to deny Infinity’s request.

“I feel that the people who are doing the development are quality and responsible people,” Piper said. 

“We feel like it would be a great asset to the city,” she said. “It will certainly help us with our revenue. It would hopefully bring a lot more people to our businesses in the downtown area.”

Chambers said he supported the rezoning because it is part of “a good plan” for the site.

He noted the zoning already is in place for it to be developed as any kind of single-family residential neighborhood.

“I don’t know what the future of the golf course is,” Chambers said. “It can be developed under the current zoning. I think it’s going to redevelop one way or the other.”

Infinity’s plan calls for upscale residential development, he said.

“By changing the zoning, it will lead to a higher quality development than under the current zoning,” he said.

The site is bounded by Crowell Road on the west, Brown Bridge Road on the south, the Yellow River on the east and unincorporated Newton County on the north.

Opponents, including city residents and nearby residents living outside the city, spoke to the city planning commission and city council during public hearings in May and June.

Some living near the site but outside the city said they believed the addition of hundreds of new residents to the area would worsen traffic on already-congested Crowell Road — which is a major commuter link between central Newton County and I-20.

Many said developer Brad Mitchell should have completed traffic studies around the site before submitting plans.

Other residents said they feared further overcrowding of nearby schools, increased crime, and lack of adequate police and fire protection. 

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

He said developers planned to add needed deceleration lanes for those entering The Oaks site to coincide with county government plans for improving both Crowell and Brown Bridge roads.

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

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

Etheridge said 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.

He said Tuesday that the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission completed a review of a Development of Regional Impact the city filed for the project and it differed little from information the council already heard in June.

The Oaks has operated on the longtime golf course site since 1990. Porterdale annexed the site into the city in 2005.

Mitchell already is developing another multi-use project, Cedar Shoals, on the city’s south side.

Porterdale plan
An area resident looks over the plan for The Oaks in May during a planning commission meeting at Porter Memorial Gymnasium in downtown Porterdale. - photo by Tom Spigolon