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City votes 4-3 for industrial rezoning
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Covington Mayor Kim Carter cast the tie-breaking vote Monday when the Covington City Council voted 4-3 to approve a request for nearly 160 acres of land along Ga. Highway 142 and Airport Road to be annexed into the city and rezoned heavy industrial.

The request was made by the Industrial Development Authority, the owner of the parcels, because it said the land had to be zoned heavy industrial before the state would market the property to industries. Authority Chairman Danny Stone said industries are looking for reasons to eliminate communities from consideration, and Newton County wants to be as attractive as possible.

Nearby residents opposed the request, citing concerns regarding possible air, water and noise pollution, declining property values and increased traffic.

Restrictions placed on the property disallow any noxious or toxic uses, authority attorney Frank Turner Jr. said.

Jossie Cook has lived next to one of the parcels for 32 years. She said she's invested $60,000 in her house during the last six years and is too old to sell her house and get a new 30-year mortgage. She said she understands the need for jobs, but she should have been notified of the city and county's plans when the authority purchased the land in 2004.

The council split its vote 3-3, with councilwomen Janet Goodman, Ocie Franklin and Hawnethia Williams opposing.

The Covington Planning Commission voted 4-1 to recommend approval and both the county’s and city’s future land use maps call for the property to be zoned industrial.

Turner said only one industry has seriously looked at the property since it was purchased and he had no timetable for when the property would be developed.

Also Monday, Police Chief Stacey Cotton recommended that city send a letter to O-Zone Bar and Grill and The Depot Sports Bar and Grill, asking them to better police themselves. He said these two locations are licensed as restaurants but clearly operate as bars and have a much higher number of calls for police service than pure restaurants.

The council decided Monday not to give an additional $51,000 for the library to Eastside High School trail that has been several years in the making. County Special Projects Coordinator Cheryl Delk was seeking money from both the city and county to be used as a match to allow her to apply for an $800,000 to $1 million state grant that would fully fund the trail project.