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Setback rules squabbling leads to delay on store, eateries near Social Circle
New plan for old truck stop site
An artist's rendering of the convenience store and fast-food restaurants planned for Georgia Hwy. 11 at I-20's Exit 98 are shown. - photo by Courtesy of Newton County

COVINGTON, Ga. — A plan for a convenience store and fast-food restaurants at I-20 and Georgia Hwy. 11 will be delayed for at least two months after developers said they had problems with conditions and area zoning requirements.

Questions about an ongoing appeal of a previously rejected rezoning of the same site for a travel center also apparently led to the Newton County Board of Commissioners delaying action on the request for the site near Social Circle on Tuesday.

Commissioners voted to delay action until Aug. 17 on their consideration of Jackson-based JPC Design & Construction’s request for a conditional use permit allowing construction of a convenience store with underground fuel tanks in the Little River watershed.

The request was for use of 10 acres of a total 46-acre site at the southeast corner of I-20’s Exit 98 interchange with Georgia Hwy. 11.

JPC attorney Richard Milam said the company would face a major delay in starting construction if not given relief from a 100-foot setback requirement for commercial construction in the Brick Store Overlay District.

He asked commissioners for a 50-foot setback because construction of the 8,000-square-foot building at least 100 feet from Hwy. 11 would force developers to encroach on a creek on the property.

Encroaching on the creek would require approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that could take months to obtain, he said.

He also said JPC wanted 16 fuel pumps rather than 12 as staff recommended, and 20 spaces for employees rather than nine.

The Brick Store Overlay includes areas surrounding Hwy. 11’s intersections with I-20 and U.S. Hwy. 278 in eastern Newton between Social Circle and Mansfield.

An overlay district places development requirements on new construction that are in addition to those already required by zoning regulations in place within a specific geographic area. 

Area resident Wayne Pugh said he believed the developer needed to follow the overlay district regulations “to the letter.” 

JPC’s plan will be the first major commercial project to build within the overlay zone since it was established in 2006 and commissioners “need to stand firm,” he said.

“They knew that creek was there from the beginning,” he said.

Commissioner Stan Edwards, who represents the area, said a Dollar General store on Hwy. 11 near Hwy. 278 exceeded the requirement with a 150-foot setback.

Milam said the project would be a $6 million investment and employ a total of about 20 to staff the store and restaurants.

The developer has agreements with Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts to operate the fast-food restaurants — which he said will each include drive-through windows. 

He said the new design includes gas pumps to serve personal vehicles only and no fuel facilities for tractor-trailers.

The Board of Commissioners rejected the same developer’s plan for a travel center, fast-food restaurants and future big-box supermarket on most of the 46-acre site in February after area homeowners groups united to oppose the plan.

County Attorney Megan Martin asked Milam about commissioners’ belief that JPC agreed to drop an existing lawsuit against the Board if it approved the conditional use permit. Milam said he did not know of any such offer.

He noted that a lawsuit it recently filed in Newton County Superior Court was the only method JPC had to appeal the Board’s February decision to deny a rezoning request for the previous travel center plan. 

However, he said the two issues were not related.

In other zoning action Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners approved a rezoning of a 35-acre site on Georgia Hwy. 142 for construction of 226 rental townhomes.

The request was for a rezoning from M2 (Heavy Industrial) to RMF (Multi-Family Residential) for the site at the highway’s intersection with City Pond Road.

Jim Chapman of applicant Jim Chapman Communities told commissioners the “attached rental cottages” he planned near Three Ring Studios would target upscale residents who did not want to own their homes or be responsible for their maintenance. 

He said a similar community with such amenities as a clubhouse and swimming pool he developed in Athens that rent from $1,595 per month for two bedrooms to $2,275 for three bedrooms.

Also Tuesday, commissioners agreed to delay action until July 20 on a request to rezone 6.6 acres on Salem Road at Smith Store Road for construction of a multi-use project that will include a fast-food restaurant.

Developers said they wanted to work to address concerns from nearby homeowners about to request to rezone the site from Single-Family Residential to Highway Commercial.

Chapman talks at Newton BOC meeting
Developer Jim Chapman explains his townhome plan to the Newton County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday at the Historic Courthouse. (Tom Spigolon | The Covington News)