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No more avoiding red lights if city ordinance passes

Motorists in Covington may not be able to take shortcuts through private property just to avoid sitting at a red light in the near future.

An ordinance outlawing motorists from cutting across private property, including parking lots, to avoid the lights was read for the first time at the city of Covington’s council meeting Monday night. The ordinance repeals conflicting ordinances and creates a new section specifically about off road “through traffic on private property.”

The council approved a request from the owners of Mystic Grill, Ronnie and Kelley Johnston and Angi and John Beszborn, allowing the restaurant to serve patrons alcohol outside at bistro tables. The mayor recused himself during the discussion and vote. Angi Beszborn was present to answer questions or concerns.

“We have a few tables outside on the sidewalk, and want to make sure we’re in compliance,” she said, adding the restaurant would be serving patrons outside the full menu.

Council member Hawnethia Williams, Post 2, West, wanted to know if the council would need to approve all similar requests individually or if could be included in the approval of onsite alcohol consumption licenses.

Associate city attorney Frank Turner said that the city’s codes require that approval be given individually “just as you would for any other sidewalk encroachment.”

According to the existing code, there needs to be six feet of clearance between the service area and the curb, which also includes tree wells and benches. Earlier this year, permission was given to Your Pie on the downtown Square to create a café area outside, and owners agreed to put in railing to mark the service area.

Mayor Ronnie Johnston read a proclamation at the beginning of the meeting, declaring April 18 through 22 Manufacturing Week. The proclamation congratulated General Mills and Tread Technologies, a division of Michelin, for being nominated as one of Georgia’s Manufacturers of the Year.

The fourth class of graduates from the city’s Citizens’ Police Academy was presented to the council. According to Assistant Chief of Police, Almond Turner, there are approximately 100 Covington residents who have completed the program and who “are serving as ambassadors for the city.”

Public hearings for three amendments to the city’s zoning code governing design standards, permitted uses and parking and loading were held and all were given a first reading.

The proposed amendment on design standards would allow the engineering department director to approve the continuation of pre-2008 multi-phased developments that have already been approved. The standards governing things like street widths, length of cul de sac streets and curb details were changed in June of 2008. The economic crash and subsequent collapse of the housing market caused some developers to abandon planned subdivisions.

The amendment would “allow an owner to come back and say we’d like to pick up where we were [before the market collapse],” said Scot Gaither, Service Planner for the city of Covington. There’s “one subdivision that’s soon to begin — Wildwood subdivision, which will have 550 homes at build out. While our constructional standards have been changed since they began, they wanted to be able to maintain the appearance of the subdivision.”

According to Gaither, the new owner has submitted a preliminary plat for phase two, which will go before the Planning Commission on Tuesday, May 10 at 6 p.m.

The second code amendment would make the following changes:

• introduces scenic and sightseeing transportation in areas zoned Town Center Mixed Use, including the area around the historic square, and Corridor Mixed Use, including the area around State Route 278 and I-20;

• removes pharmacies and drug stores from retail trade use in heavily populated residential areas, zoned NR3;

• allows transitional housing, which may also provide meals and social services in ; and
• adds motion picture and sound recording industries to be in areas zoned for heavy industry.

The third amendment read and given a public hearing clarifies and corrects the section of building code governing parking lot surface materials and clarifies the number and placement of driveway curbs in residential and non-residential zones.

The city council also:

• Approved an agreement with Harris System Maintenance for the Covington-Newton 911 Center in the amount of $194,628 annually. The city will be billed $16,219 monthly, and the cost will be shared by other municipalities using the radio system;

• Approved a request from the city manager to seek bids for a new roof for city hall, estimated to cost $176,000;

• Approved road closures for Tate Street from Dearing to Hospital Drive for a disaster preparedness exercise staged by Piedmont-Newton Medical Center on April 15; for all roads around the Square and one block off for the Covington Car Show, May 15 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and King Street, Southeast, Pemberton Drive Southeast, Brookhaven Drive Southeast and Hollybrook Road South East for a bicycle race to benefit Newton Trails on Saturday, June 11 from 12:30 to 9 p.m.; and

• Accepted a bid from Great Estates of $2,475 for lawn and ornamental maintenance for the city.