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Owner withdraws land offer for Boys & Girls Club, Newton County youth facility
Newton County BOC
The Newton County Board of Commissioners meet at the Historic Courthouse in Covington. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — A property owner who planned to donate his land to the Boys & Girls Club for a youth facility has withdrawn the offer because of controversy stirred by objections from some Newton County commissioners over its location.

John Addison Jr., owner of 4 acres on Brown Bridge Road near Trelawney subdivision, informed county leaders of the decision Friday, a county spokesman said. 

"Since the county’s decision is obviously so controversial among the leadership, Mr. Addison has regretfully requested that the property decision be reversed, and has withdrawn his offer to donate the property," said a spokesperson for Addison. 

The property at 11869 Brown Bridge Road was the family home of Addison’s late parents, John and Ruth Addison. Mrs. Addison was a longtime educator in Newton County.

"Mr. Addison hoped that the home and property would be used to do something good for the young people of Newton County," the spokesperson said. "His parents were wonderful people who always loved and nurtured young people. 

"The last thing he wants is to see his family home become a source of controversy. It was a place of love and community for all the years of his parents’ lives," the spokesperson said. 

The action leaves the county still searching — after more than a year — for a location for a project designated as the Westside Youth Facility in the 2017 SPLOST.

The land was to be donated to the Boys & Girls Club and given to the county for the youth facility at no charge on the condition a 113-year-old house on the property be retained and included in the Westside Youth Facility building plan, according to a report in The Newton Citizen.

Commissioners voted Feb. 7 to select the site despite two commissioners, District 3 Commissioner Alana Sanders and District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson, voting against it. 

Sanders claimed retaliation for unilaterally seeking a $4 million federal grant apart from the county for the project. Henderson alleged racism on the government’s part for wanting to place the facility near a majority Black neighborhood over some residents’ objections.

The site is adjacent to the Trelawney subdivision and backs up to a separate 11-acre tract the county government has owned since 2015. 

It also is in Henderson’s district. He said he believed the county was forcing the facility on the area’s majority Black residents in a way that was similar to how majority white governments forced such projects on Black neighborhoods in the past in the U.S. 

Sanders said she opposed it because residents told her in a meeting earlier this month they did not want it on the site. 

The commissioner has lobbied for the facility for months but wanted it built on a separate, 60-acre tract near Fairview Road in her district. 

However, county officials said the sellers of the Fairview property wanted more than the appraised value of $2.3 million, the Newton Citizen reported.

Sanders also accused the other commissioners of making her the victim of political payback for pursuing the federal grant through U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson’s office rather than the county. 

Trelawney Home Owners’ Association president Annette Alston said the biggest issue wasn’t the presence of the Boys & Girls Club but the lack of communication to residents. 

She said she and some residents felt slighted because the decision was made without communicating with them. 

Commissioners had considered accepting the same property as a donation for use as a county park in October 2021 before a disagreement over conditions placed on the transfer led Addison to withdraw the offer, according to a previous report in The Covington News.

News Editor Tom Spigolon contributed to this report.