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First reading of impact fees set at 50 percent

COVINGTON, Ga. – Council members for the city of Covington voted to set impact fees at 50 percent during the first reading at the Feb. 5 meeting.

Back in November, members of the council voted to deny impact fees at 100 percent. This came in a split 3-3 vote by the council, with then-mayor Steve Horton breaking the tie.

The process then restarted at the Nov. 27 meeting when the first reading for impact fees were set at 35 percent. 

However, council then opted to table impact fees discussion at the Dec. 11 meeting. The reasoning was that the impact fees proposed did not incorporate Newton County’s SPLOST, therefore making the proposed numbers inaccurate.

Since that meeting, the council has been revamped with new faces. With a recommendation by city attorney Frank Turner Jr., the council opted to restart the reading process so that the current council can move forward with the decision.

A motion was then made by mayor pro-tem Susie Keck and seconded by councilman Anthony Henderson. The vote went 5-1, with councilwoman Kim Johnson opposing.

Keck told The Covington News in an email her thought process on making the motion for 50 percent.

“The original fees included GDOT roads and a few City roads that are covered by SPLOST dollars and those were removed.  That reduced the total fees to be collected,” Keck said. “We discussed it and polled the council and all but one agreed on 50 percent.  That is why I made the motion for 50 percent.”

Johnson – the lone abstaining vote – also shared her thoughts on the impact fee ordinance with The News via email. 

“It is my belief that we are currently in a position where we are trying to make up for lost time as the implementation of these fees have been significantly delayed,” Johnson said. “Our infrastructure is in need of updates and repairs, yet we lack the funds to address these issues adequately.”

Additionally, Johnson feels that the 50 percent mark is “excessive.”

“My other concern was the higher percentage would deter future development,” Johnson said. “It’s important to strike a balance between generating revenue for necessary improvements and ensuring the city of Covington remain [sic] an attractive destination for businesses and individuals. In my opinion, a more reasonable starting point would have been 35 percent.”

City makes moves on ordinances; other business matters

The impact fee ordinance was not the only ordinance discussed at the latest meeting.

Members of the council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance that will allow patrons in the historic downtown entertainment district to carry open containers of alcohol six days of the week. 

The ordinance will allow patrons with a purchased city of Covington clear cup to carry an open container of alcoholic beverages Monday - Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. This will exclude residents of the Lofts on the Square.

Back on Jan. 16, the city conducted its first reading on the ordinance change. This stemmed from a number of trial periods allowing patrons to carry open containers from Thursday - Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The initial 90-day trial period was passed in April and was extended in July and October.

Also, the city voted to table a public hearing and final reading of the density zoning ordinance to the next meeting on Feb. 19.

But while the council tabled that business item, they unanimously approved a number of others:

  • An approval of alternatives recommended to allow Keck + Wood to move forward from concept to preliminary design phase in the Turner Lake Road Improvements project

  • A moratorium extending the acceptance of zoning petitions and applications for preliminary plats and special use permits for residential developments.

  • A first reading of an animal control ordinance, with the hopes of bringing the city’s ordinance to “substantially similar to that” of Newton County due to an intergovernmental agreement.

  • A bid approval to Gresco in the amount of $178,000 for a new automatic switchgear for Piedmont Newton Hospital.

  • A bid approval from Parrish Technology Group in the amount of $83,694.16 to complete the VMware ESXi hosts refresh project at the 911 communications center.

  • A proposal approval from NFP to be the city’s broker for employee insurance and benefits

  • An approval of a request for a Water/Sewer Operator position

  • The submission of a Community Development Block Grant application for consideration, as well as the approval of a resolution declaring the Conyers Street gym as “blight.”

  • A requestthat a letter be sent to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) in regards to the bypass in front of the theme school. This letter would petition for a traffic light due to traffic and traffic accidents.