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City considers strict building regulations in Walkers Bend
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The Covington Redevelopment Authority and residents in Walker’s Bend want to see only high-quality structures built in the subdivision to aid in its revitalization and protect the city’s significant investment in the area.

The groups developed a zoning overlay that requires proper and regular maintenance of landscaping, painted exterior surfaces, siding, recreational equipment and vehicles. In addition, laundry cannot remain outside on a line for more than 24-hours, animals cannot be tethered and residents must receive city approval to build fences or sheds. Overlays can be created under the Urban Redevelopment Plan in the urban redevelopment zone.

David Willett, owner of Newton Oxford Properties based in Loganville, said he purchased 11 homes in Walker’s Bend and supports the overlay efforts. However, he expressed concern about the fact that the overlay does not set a minimum square footage size.

In particular, the overlay says it wants to encourage consistent design standards, but Willett learned that Affordable Equity Partners could possibly build bungalow-style homes as small as 760-square feet. He said that compared to the existing homes, which range from around 1,200-square feet to 1,900-square feet, those new bungalows would be inconsistent. He said existing homes could lose their value if the neighborhood becomes a patchwork of different housing styles.

City Planning Director Randy Vinson said he believes there is a trend for small houses, which can both keep down utility costs and are more suitable for retirees.

Vinson said that at a recent planning commission meeting the entire notion of a home as an investment is becoming outdated – sometimes they’re just considered dwellings. In addition, Vinson said the smaller homes would have to be of a very high quality under the overlay.

"I don’t see how a well built small house will hurt value," he said.

Willett said if consistency was not valued, the city should remove that wording from the overlay.

The council agreed to send it back to the planning commission for some more focused discussion by a 5-1 vote, with Councilwoman Janet Goodman opposing. She said she agreed smaller houses were more affordable and should be allowed.

The next planning commission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Sept. 14 at City Hall.