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UPDATED: Rezoning proposed for multi-family, retail uses on Porterdale golf course site
Plan draws ire of some neighbors worried about increased traffic
OaksCourse2Web
Part of The Oaks golf course in Porterdale is shown. - photo by Submitted Photo

PORTERDALE, Ga. — The developer of a large-scale, multi-use development in Porterdale is seeking to create a similar development covering much of the site of a longtime golf course in the city.

Covington developer Brad Mitchell is planning a multi-use development that includes commercial, single-family and multi-family uses on the 243-acre site of The Oaks golf course on Brown Bridge Road on the northwest side of Porterdale, the city manager said.

City Councilwoman Kay Piper said she supports the plan.

“It is going to be a wonderful development and will be a great asset,” she said.

Mitchell’s company already is developing a multi-use project called Cedar Shoals containing single- and multi-family homes and some retail on the city’s southwest side.

City Manager Frank Etheridge noted the plan is only a concept at this point and the placement of specific parts likely will change as it goes through the development review process.

The plan can only go forward if Porterdale City Council first rezones the site from its current mix of single-family residential and light retail zoning. The request is for a zoning mix allowing single-family and multi-family residential uses and Commercial-General (CG), which allows heavier commercial uses such as appliance and building supply stores.

The site is at the corner of Brown Bridge and Crowell roads that already is developed on other corners with light retail uses.

Its redevelopment proposal calls for about 140,000 square feet of retail space near the intersection.

About 142 single-family lots for homes ranging in size from 5,000 to 3,200 square feet are planned at the rear of the site adjoining the Newton Woods subdivision. Townhomes and a 360-unit apartment complex will fill the remainder of the developable part of the site, according to plans filed with the city. 

Three to four entrances are planned on Crowell Road but none on Brown Bridge Road because of its proximity to a wetlands area. Almost half of the site is in a floodplain, the plans state.

Plans also call for reserving part of the site for a nine-hole golf course. 

The Oaks is an 18-hole, par-71 course that also features a driving range and putting green.

Course manager Richard Schulz is part of a partnership that developed and owns the golf course — which has been zoned for residential uses since at least the 1980s.

He said he has heard numerous offers for buying and developing the course as a residential area in the 30 years he has been involved with The Oaks.

However, he said he had not seen plans of the same high quality as this new proposal and he “might consider” being involved with the development. 

“It’s just so early,” Schulz said.

He said he also would need to consider his partners’ feelings about the plan, and such factors as its overall effect on the city of Porterdale.

“If it’s not good for Porterdale, it’s not going to happen,” he said.

At least one opponent of the plan, Gladstone Nicholson, told the Newton County Board of Commissioners Tuesday night he doubted the city of Porterdale could adequately provide services to the area if developed as planned. 

He also said the development would negatively affect homeowners and residents living in neighborhoods along Crowell Road north of Porterdale because of increased traffic.

However, Etheridge said Porterdale was able to offer services including law enforcement and solid waste disposal for residents if the area was developed.

District 3 County Commissioner Alana Sanders said she had heard concerns from area residents and discussed the matter with county officials.

Sanders issued the following statement to The Covington News

“I have received numerous calls from my neighbors in regards to this sign that they did not see until last week. I have answered after hours calls of concerns about a development of this magnitude affecting the roads, adding additional traffic, and inconveniencing the current neighbors. There are two schools within the area, not including the new subdivisions being built on Brown Bridge that are already congested. 

"The legibility of reading this notice is unbearable unless you are directly in front of the sign; which is what many citizens in District 3 had to do to find out what was occurring. The sign states the meeting is being held at city hall to find out from the city it will be hosted inside of Porterdale gym which is misleading. 

"Many of the concerns did not only come from the neighbors of District 3 but those within the county. The residents that reside on Crowell Road expressed their concerns of living in this area for over 30 years and was not contacted about this proposed rezoning. 

"I have spoken to Mr. Kerr our county manager on Monday who stated he would send a letter to Porterdale expressing the concerns that can affect the county and taxpayers which I mentioned in the commissioners meeting after Mr. Gladstone spoke. 

“I also have been questioned how the golf course was able to be annexed in Porterdale when the address is in Covington. In order to seek additional information to answer the citizens' questions, I had to consult with the county manager to find out the legalities that were put in place before I was in office and he stated he decided not to send a letter expressing the county concerns. 

“Per the County Manager, Lloyd Kerr: 'This property was annexed using a legal method that, in the past, allowed cities to reach out along and follow a state water, (Yellow River) and then use Public property (what was Newton High and Porterdale Elementary) to gain contiguity in order to annex. I don't think this would be possible today as the annexation laws have changed. As I recall, this was done many years ago when alcohol by the drink was not permitted in the county but Porterdale began allowing alcohol sales by the drink. I am sure there are additional reasons but this is the only way the golf course could sell beer to their customers.

'I have decided not to send a letter to Porterdale. We will have project review and can require improvements to mitigate the project impact since they will be accessing the property across our right of way.'"

According to a history on The Oaks' website, Porterdale Mills began operating a golf course on the same site in the 1930s as an amenity for its workers. 

It operated under various names into the 1980s but it apparently stopped being used as a golf course and former owners allowed vegetation on the site to grow wild for years.

An Atlanta group later redeveloped the site and opened The Oaks golf course under Schulz’s guidance in 1990.

Porterdale annexed the golf course site in 2005.