The Covington City Council voted 4-3 Monday night, with Mayor Kim Carter casting the tie breaking vote, to approve a request for nearly 160 acres of land along Ga. Highway 142 and Airport road to be annexed into Covington 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 potential industries.
Residents surrounding the property opposed the request, saying they believed there was a possibility of air, water and noise pollution, declining property values and increased traffic. According to the restrictions placed on the property, no noxious or toxic uses are allowed.
The council split their vote 3-3, with councilwomen Janet Goodman, Ocie Franklin and Hawnethia Williams opposing. Before the request was heard, Carter said she would not vote because she is also a member of the Industrial Development Authority. She believed it could be a conflict of interest for her to vote.
However, once the tie vote occurred, she asked City Attorney Ed Crudup for advice. Crudup said that under the city's ordinances Carter was required, as mayor, to also serve on the Industrial Development Authority. Crudup said that because both of those offices require her to serve the city's best interests, he did not see any conflict of interest. He said that in her elected role she must vote.
"I think where there are issues that impact the body of which you are an elected official that you must cast your vote as the charter requires," Crudup said Monday night.
Monday night's vote was the first reading of the annexation request. The council will vote for the second and final time at its Dec. 20 meeting.
In other news, the council voted not to give an additional $51,000 to the library to Eastside High School trail that has been several years in the making.
County Special Projects Coordinator Cheryl Delk was seeking additional 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 have fully funded the trail project.
However, Mayor Carter and various council members expressed concern about the fact that the budget for the proposed trail has changed many times. The final cost that Delk quoted Monday night was more than $1.8 million for a final version that was more than a simple bare bones trail.
Councilwoman Goodman made a motion to support the additional city investment, with the understanding that even if the city got the grant it could choose not to use the grant and, therefore, not pay any match money. Goodman and Franklin voted in favor of the increase in funding, but council members Keith Dalton, Chris Smith and Hawnethia Williams voting in opposition. Councilman Mike Whatley was absent, having left the meeting earlier, because he was not feeling well.
Delk will have to seek elsewhere to find money to fully fund the trail.