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No recommendations from county on ordinances so far
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Staff is still reviewing Newton County’s ordinances less than two weeks after a five-week moratorium was placed on permits for places of worship.

As of Friday, County Manager Lloyd Kerr said no recommendations or changes have been made in zoning ordinances related to places of worship.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted unanimously to enact the moratorium on Aug. 16 after a proposed mosque being developed on 135 acres on Georgia Highway 162 and County Line Road was made public.

The sale of the land passed through Newton County’s Development Services department on June 16 without a public hearing or notice because the county ordinance permits places of worship in all zoning areas. Cemeteries are also permissible in areas zoned agriculture residential, as long as the property is at least 10-acres in size and all graves are set back 40-feet from property or right-of-way lines, according to Section 510-151 of the Newton County Zoning Ordinance.

The proposed use of the land was acceptable to county ordinances, Newton County Zoning Administrator Judy Johnson told Al Maad Al Islami Inc. in a letter. Al Maad Al Islami, Inc. had purchased the 135-acres form Neely Family Farms, LLC.
“According to the site plan submitted with this request allocating 10.5 acres for the initial cemetery plus an additional 15.1 acres for cemetery expansion, the request to operate a private cemetery is an allowable ancillary use for a Place of Worship or a stand-alone use as presented,” said Judy Johnson, Zoning Administrator in the approval letter dated June 16, 2015. “The cemetery use must comply with the requirements of Sec. 510-151 of the Newton County Zoning Ordinance.”

County staff was asked by the BOC to review some of those ordinances and present its findings to the board during its Sept. 20 meeting. So far, no changes have been identified to be recommended.

“To date, the Board of Commissioners has taken no further action concerning the moratorium placed on all places of worship,” Kerr said. “During the moratorium, Newton County Development Services will review zoning ordinances for all places of worship and make recommendations for necessary changes if applicable to the Board of Commissioners. “

Kerr also said applicants may still submit site plans for review, and development services will be able to issue permits if the site plans are approved once the moratorium expires or is lifted.