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Industry considering airport land
Covington to re-allow tattoo parlors
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The Covington Municipal Airport continues to draw interest from a light, personal aircraft maker that is looking to build a 100,000 square-foot facility and employ around 80 workers in its initial stage.

The company had previously explored 20 acres of land next to the airport and Nisshinbo, the brake manufacturer, but is now looking at property off Williams Road, City Manager Steve Horton said. The company asked for the cost of land, and Horton said he estimated to be worth $35,000 an acre.

In other airport news, the council met in executive session for nearly an hour to discuss potential land acquisition, and then went back into open session to vote to give city officials permission to pursue a purchase of land from Nisshinbo directly off of Nisshinbo Drive.

The land would be used to create an access road to the airport from Ga. Highway 142. The city is planning to make this entrance the new main entrance for the airport.

Police department purchases two undercover vehicles

The council approved $41,830 for the Covington Police Department to buy two SUVs from Covington Ford. The vehicles will be used for undercover work and the money will come out of seized funds.

Covington to re-allow tattoo parlors

When William Wyckoff sought to move his Elektryk Inkk tattoo parlor from one location on U.S. Highway 278 in Covington to another one just down the road, he found out that tattoo parlors were no longer allowed in Covington.

"It was like getting hit by a car...this is how I support my family...9 years in the city (and) you can't just up and move a tattoo shop," he said in a March 9 email to The News.

The Covington City Council addressed what it called an administrative error Monday night by approving the first reading of an ordinance change to allow tattoo parlors to be located in the corridor mix and light industrial zonings. However, that was too late for Wyckoff, who has decided to move his parlor to 1073 Railroad St. in downtown Conyers, which he said was more business friendly.

Tattoo parlors were previously allowed, which is why Covington had at least two for the past few years, but they were not allowed when the city overhauled its zoning ordinance in 2008. When the change was discovered, Planning Director Randy Vinson said he brought the matter to the planning commission, which did not take any action.

Wyckoff said Elektryk Inkk has been in business for nine years, but he was forced to move from his location near when the building he was renting was put up for sale.

Wyckoff expressed his disappointment during the meeting and said he felt he was being "pushed out." He said he was the first person to ask for tattoo parlors to be allowed in Covington. He and his wife, who is a co-owner, left the meeting as the council was casting its vote to reapprove tattoo parlors.

He said in a follow-up email Tuesday that he was already moved into his new location in Conyers.

"What upsets me is that this "clerical error" cost me around $10,000 (and) that is no lie. And the mayor and the rest of her flunkies act like its no big deal. I understand that they decided to change the zoning to allow tattoo shops in the city but only in certain areas now. Thanks but no thanks. I am not going to be pushed back on some out of the way spot," he said.

City pursuing community center in Walker’s Bend neighborhood

The city is also pursuing the construction of a community center in the Walker’s Bend neighborhood, which city officials have been trying to revitalize for the past couple years.

The four-story, 39,460- square-foot building would cost $3.35 million. It would house 12, one-bedroom and 18, two–bedroom apartments on the top three floors, and 4,500 square feet of retail space and a 4,500 square foot commercial kitchen on the first floor. The retail space could be used as a new business incubator, while the kitchen would be rented by people starting catering or other food-related businesses.

The top three floors of apartments would be rented out by the Covington Housing Authority and used as transitional housing to move people out of the Alcovy Road housing into market rate housing, planning director Vinson said.

The council voted Monday night to allow grant writer Randy Connor to submit an application for an $800,000 state water line grant that would provide partial funding for the building. The rest of the funding would have to come from the county.

Covington is going to ask for Newton County’s $435,000 of remaining Neighborhood Stabilization Program money, as well as $1.1 million in new Neighborhood Stabilization Program money the county could receive. The county had previously decided it did not want to use that money because of the complications associated with it, Commissioner Tim Fleming said Monday night. He attended the meeting because Covington is in his district.

The remaining slightly more than $1 million would come from SPLOST. The Newton County Board of Commissioners approved giving $1.1 million in 2011 SPLOST money for "District 4 improvements."

The money was designed to go to a workforce development center among other things, and city Planning Director Randy Vinson is talking with District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson to find out whether the Walker’s Bend center would fit the bill.

Connor said the city would not start construction or move forward on the project unless it had all funding secured.

The city hopes the center would continue the process of revitalizing Walker’s Bend neighborhood, which is located off of Ga. Highway 81, just south of the intersection with Turner Lake Road.