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City Council denies special use permits on Covington bypass
Covington City Council meeting 10/16/23
Photo Courtesy - City of Covington livestream

COVINGTON, Ga. --- The Covington City Council denied two special use permits requests at Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue/Covington Bypass Road by Neely Farms, LLC at its Oct. 16 meeting. 

The first special use permit (SUP), requested by developer of The Quarry @ Neely Farms project, Chris Folgman, proposed a mixed-use development across 73 acres with 125 townhomes, 350 apartments, 125 condominiums, retail, restaurants and outdoor activities.

The second SUP, also proposed by Folgman, proposed 227 single family attached townhomes for 22.7 acres. Currently, 370 detached single-family homes are under development as part of the same project. The entire project site spans 200 acres.

In September 2021, the city council implemented an improved intersection on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue at Nitro 2 Go as a condition for the SUPs.

According to Folgman, Neely Farms has agreed to install a traffic signal at an estimated cost of $1.8 million. The project is in the final steps of obtaining the signal permit following the city’s application and is awaiting final approval from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).

The Covington Planning Commission recommended denial of both SUPs.

Prior to the public hearing, three residents of the Covington Place neighborhood expressed their concerns regarding traffic, noise pollution and other issues during the time allotted for public comment. 

Additionally, another Covington Place resident voiced her concerns due to the lack of emergency services in the community, suggesting the issue should be considered before adding more density.

Matt Crowe, owner of the Covington Ford dealership on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, vocalized his concerns about traffic during the public hearing.

“Traffic is a huge concern of ours,” Crowe said. “The traffic is a nightmare. Getting on and off in front of the dealership, you basically take your life into your own hands to try and take a left hand turn and a right hand turn sometimes.”

Being elected officials of the city council, you owe it to the residents and the employees of the businesses here a safe and accessible passage in and out of their homes and in and out of the businesses.”

In a 4-2 vote, the Covington City Council denied the SUP request for the mixed-use development. Councilmembers Kenneth Morgan and Charika Davis casted the two opposing votes.

During the second SUP request’s public hearing regarding the 227 townhomes across 22.7 acres, Attorney Joshua Scoggins, representing the applicant, said he did not believe the council had the legal authority to deny the application due to the zoning condition they imposed.

“That zoning condition you imposed required us to go get approval from the DOT, and we have been diligently working toward that and have just now been able to get the city to agree to be the applicant, which is what the GDOT requires,” Scoggins said. “We can’t comply with that zoning condition if the project isn’t improved. 

So if anybody wants a light out there, we’re going to have to develop this piece.”

Morgan made a motion to approve the SUP, but it died for lack of a second.

Councilmember Fleeta Baggett made a motion to deny, which was seconded by councilmember Susie Keck. The vote tied, with Baggett, Keck and councilmember Don Floyd in favor of denial. Morgan, David and councilmember Anthony Henderson opposed the denial. Mayor Steve Horton broke the tie with a 4-3 vote to deny the SUP request.

Other items discussed at the meeting were the following:

  • Approval of application for local restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption (approved)
  • Approval of application for a license for Covington QuikTrips to sell alcoholic beverages for off-premise consumption (approved)
  • Public hearing regarding an SUP request for an automotive repair (window tinting) business on Washington Street (approved with conditions)
  • Public hearing for the rezoning of two tax parcels at 8185 Old City Pond Road and Old City Pond Road, from M1 (light industrial) to M2 (heavy industrial), for equipment rental business as well as an amendment of the FLU from COM to IND (approved with conditions recommended by staff)
  • Discussion of Emory Street/SR 81 bridge replacement natural gas contract with accompanying resolution (approved)
  • Discussion of Emory Street/SR 81 bridge replacement water and sewer relocation contract with accompanying resolution (approved)
  • Discussion of bids for the Sanitary Sewer Brick Manhole Rehab/Replacement project (approved best bid from RDJE Inc. not exceeding budgeted $1.5 million for project)
  • Discussion of an extension for an additional 90-day trial period for open container in the Downtown Entertainment District (approved)
  • Discussion of hiring a new position in the telecommunications department (approved)

Covington City Council’s next meeting will be held on Monday, Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at its Council Room (2116 Stallings St.).