COVINGTON, Ga. — Traffic was the focal point of public discussion recently concerning a local mixed-use development that could boast a multi-million dollar impact in Newton County.
Phil Johnson, a local attorney who represents Neely Farms Family Limited Partnership LLLP, discussed details of the Neely Farms development located at 9135 Martin Luther King Ave. (Covington Bypass Road) during a Development Town Hall event held inside the Covington City Council meeting room Wednesday, June 30.
As initially reported by The Covington News in May, plans for the development centered around a former quarry will consist of 1,162 residential units including 330 houses located within two single-family detached neighborhoods; 227 townhomes; 39 upscale estate homes; several condos and apartments; and a variety of retailers and restaurants. A brewery and amphitheater are also planned for the property.
The development, in total, could create a more than $350 million economic boon for the county, Johnson said.
There will be two single-family detached neighborhoods located east and south of the quarry under contract, according to Johnson. One 180-lot neighborhood is planned to be located north of Scenic Parkway; the second 150-lot neighborhood will be located south of Scenic Parkway below the quarry.
In addition, 227 townhomes are to be located on a tract directly east of the quarry and there will be 39 upscale estate homes surrounding the quarry.
During the town hall, Johnson said the single-family neighborhood homes would be “Craftsman style” and range from 1,700- to 1,800-square-feet. The cost would be from $275,000-$350,000, Johnson said.
The townhomes “won’t be far removed” from the single-family homes, Johnson said. He believed builders would try to bring the price under $300,000, but was doubtful considering constructions costs.
The estate homes around the quarry are expected to cost around $500,000-$600,000.
With the influx of homes, Johnson realized traffic flow was a potential problem on everyone’s mind, but said the developers would be doing all they could to keep issues at a minimum.
“There’s no easy answer to the traffic,” Johnson said. “We’re going to try to be part of the solution on how we deal with our traffic coming into and leaving our neighborhood. But it’s going to require a big push to get DOT to widen the Covington Bypass Road all the way around.
“Something I’ve observed … infrastructure seldom precedes growth,” he added. “Growth drives infrastructure. So, we’re not going to get this road four-laned with nobody living here. What going to happen is we’re going to build on it, then we’re going to be able to drive the infrastructure to support it.”
Per the site plans, the community would have two major access points; one via Scenic Parkway and the other being next to Nitro 2 Go — both turning off Covington Bypass Road. Johnson said developers were working with the DOT to install a roundabout in front of Nitro 2 Go.
Johnson said no there was no feasible, logistical way to create an access point from U.S. Hwy. 278 or any other highway.
Some residents were not pleased by this.
“So, let’s call it 600 homes,” one resident said. “You’re going to bring all of those people in and out to work and home every day through that one corridor?”
“Through that one corridor, that is what we’ve got is the Covington ByPass Road,” Johnson replied. “It’s a state highway —”
“This is just a couple of miles down the bypass from an existing community being built right now,” the resident interjected, “and then on [Georgia Hwy.] 36, the extremely large apartment-looking complex there. And now you’re going to add another 600, and everybody’s got to go through that same corridor, if I’m understanding correctly, to get the interstate, to [U.S. Hwy.] 278, to the grocery store, to the doctor, to the hospital, all within the same area?”
Covington Bypass Road is a state highway, but only in part.
The Georgia Department of Transportation controls the segment of highway from Jackson Highway to U.S. Hwy. 278, which is formally known as Georgia Hwy. 36.
The Newton County government maintains ownership of the segment of Covington Bypass Road that starts from Jackson Highway and goes back toward the city of Porterdale.
Covington Planning & Development Director Tres Thomas, who also serves as city engineer, said the “long-range plan” to widen the county’s part of the Covington Bypass Road from a two-lane road to a four-lane road was currently scheduled to get underway by 2040.
Per county documents, the cost is estimated to be upwards of $31 million.
As for GDOT’s plans, Thomas said preliminary engineering wasn’t scheduled to begin until 2051 and construction wouldn’t take place until 2057 for their portion of Covington Bypass Road.
According to documents from GDOT, the cost would be upwards of $21 million, bringing the total up to approximately $52 million for all of Covington Bypass Road to be widened.
The good news, Thomas said, was if Neely Farms’ development plans, as well as Sam Hay’s development plans for apartments, were to be finalized and built in a timely manner, increased traffic counts along Covington Bypass Road could help speed up the process of widening the highway.