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Newton board delays action on zoning change for new subdivision, park on river
Dobbs subdivision and park
Pictured is the site plan for a proposed park and 300-lot subdivision at the corner of Crowell and Harold Dobbs roads. - photo by Courtesy of Newton County

COVINGTON, Ga. — A local developer is asking county commissioners to take the first step toward allowing him to convert 51 acres along Crowell Road into a subdivision and new county park.

Denny Dobbs is asking for a change in what is allowed to be developed within the Almon Overlay zoning district on the 51.02-acre site at the corner of Crowell and Harold Dobbs roads.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted to delay action until Dec. 7 on designating the land entirely within Tier 2 of the Almon Overlay at the request of District 2 Commissioner Alana Sanders because further study is needed, she said.

Gee Harvey, who is working with Dobbs to develop the site, told commissioners Oct. 19 that plans include a 300-lot subdivision on part of the site west of Crowell Road and south of Harold Dobbs Road — with entrances planned from both roads.

A separate, northeast part of the site borders the Yellow River. It will be developed for recreational uses and be given to the county government for operation as a public park, Harvey said.

“We hope to have it done in two years,” he said.

Harvey showed commissioners a site plan that included a subdivision with three lots per acre in four separate areas connected by roads within the site. 

Three areas of the subdivision in the central and south part of the site contain 241 single-family homes and surround a planned lake. 

A fourth section on the north edge backs up to Harold Dobbs Road and contains 59 townhomes.

The land is now undeveloped and is surrounded by single-family residential uses on the south and west, Riverside Estates mobile home park across the Yellow River on the east, and churches and Salem Cemetery on the north. 

Dobbs requested a change from Tier 1 and 2 of the overlay district to entirely Tier 2 on the land — which county commissioners would be required to approve. 

A change to Tier 2 would allow construction of a mixed-use development on the site rather than all residential because part of it is in the floodplain of the Yellow River, zoning officials said.

Development Services Director Judy Johnson said the park is planned to be almost 300 feet from the river and be partly outside the floodplain.

She detailed staff conditions for the park, including daily hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; a 25-space parking area; and installation of a metal gate, security lights, storage building, picnic pavilion, a minimum of five picnic tables, a dog park, walking trail and a “tot lot” for ages 3 to 8. Camping and barbecue grills would be prohibited, she said. 

Harvey said developers agreed to all the conditions except for installation of sidewalks along part of Crowell Road because it has sharp drop-offs on the side of the pavement and would be difficult to build.

He said developers did not plan to create any direct access points to the river across an existing buffer area for those wanting to partake in such activities as kayaking.

The tier change request is the first step in the process. Developers will still be required to submit a preliminary plat for Newton County Planning Commission approval and pass other administrative requirements before construction could begin.

The county’s Almon, Salem and Brick Store overlay districts add extra requirements to the base zoning requirements for new construction within their boundaries. 

It controls such items as construction materials and the length of building setbacks from property lines.  

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the plan with staff conditions Sept. 28. 

It is the final subdivision that was submitted to the Development Services department before a moratorium on new residential development plats was approved in January of this year, Johnson said. 

In other action at the Oct. 19 meeting, the Board of Commissioners approved:

• Letter of support for AT&T’s grant application on behalf of Newton County for money from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund for extension of broadband service in the county.

Newton County is requesting to use $8 million from the state Fund — which is comprised of federal American Rescue Plan funds — to extend wired service to provide 97% coverage, said County Manager Lloyd Kerr.

• Cornish Creek Water Treatment Facility’s request to apply for unspecified amounts in American Rescue Plan funds and an Economic Development Agencies grant, both from the state government, with proceeds to be spent in collaboration with municipalities and authorities of Covington for water and wastewater system improvements.

Projects include an expansion of the county’s Cornish Creek Water Treatment Plant and the city of Covington’s Eastside Pump Station; new water lines and a water storage tank for the Newton County Water and Sewer Authority to serve the Stanton Springs business park area; and expansion of the Emmons Water Reclamation facility.

Matching funds could come from current Georgia Environmental Finance Authority loans and those gaining from the grants.

• Request from the IT and Purchasing departments for approval of Ascension Program Management LLC to oversee the project to provide an emergency power system for the county government Administration Building at a cost of $32,750.

• A list of appointees to the SPLOST advisory committee, including two new members.

The committee for 2021-22 will include the chairman’s appointment, Jeff Terrell; District 1 appointment, Kenneth Williams; District 2 appointment, Baxter Bouchillon; District 3 appointment, Dana Herring; District 4 appointment, Bobbie Shepard; District 5 appointment Dan Elmore; and county manager appointment, Sally Budd.

Herring and Shepard are new appointees.

The committee advises the Board of Commissioners on projects and spending of funds from the voter-approved 2017 SPLOST.

• Approved Fire Services’ request to apply for a $10,000 State Farm Safety Grant to purchase fire escape ladders for residents.

• Parks & Recreation’s request to use money from the General Fund to change current security lighting at Turner Lake Park to LED lighting. The cost is estimated at $100.

• A resolution providing for the installation of street lights and the assessment of the annual costs of maintaining and operating the lights on property tax bills for the Brittney Trace subdivision on Rocky Plains Road.