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Restaurants part of travel plaza planned for east Newton I-20 exit
Project near GSU Newton campus to cover 19 acres on Hwy. 11
Truck plaza
A site plan submitted to Newton County planners shows the location of the proposed travel center and future retail stores. - photo by Courtesy of Newton County

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — Jackson-based Jones Petroleum is planning a 19-acre travel center near Social Circle that could bring thousands of vehicles to a relatively little developed I-20 exit.

Developer William B. Jones of Jackson has submitted a rezoning request and a conditional use permit to Newton County Development Services for the project on a 46-acre site at the southeast corner of I-20’s exit to Ga. Hwy. 11, according to information included in a Development of Regional Impact submission to the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission.

Plans include development of a 24,900-square-foot commercial travel center valued at $15 million.

Developers estimate the project will generate about 11,000 vehicle trips per day and bring about $3 million in annual tax revenue to the county.

A first phase of the project will include a travel center with convenience store, 16 pumps with 32 fueling positions for passenger vehicles, and eight diesel fueling lanes for tractor-trailers.

Restaurants with drive-through windows and truck parking also are planned, the submission stated.

Judy Johnson, director of Newton County Development Services, said her office plans to wait to receive information from state and regional planners about impacts on the area before beginning the process of county officials’ review.

She said she anticipated the rezoning and conditional use permit being submitted to the county planning commission in January and possibly being considered for final approval by the board of commissioners by February.

Johnson added the River Cove Homeowners Association  — representing residents of a residential area across I-20 from the project — already had contacted her office with concerns about the project.

County Commissioner Stan Edwards, whose district includes the site, has said on his Facebook page he had concerns in the past about the potential for increased crime, traffic, light pollution and demand on such services as law enforcement.

He did not immediately return a call for comment today, Oct. 23.

The Development of Regional Impact submission quoted Johnson as saying traffic improvements will be needed in the area to accommodate the project.

Johnson stated in the submission that a traffic signal will be needed at the exit, and a tree line will need to be cleared south of the project’s driveway to provide sight distance, according to the submission. 

“The development proposes (construction of) right-turn lanes at both driveways and a left-turn lane at the south driveway,” the submission stated.

However, Johnson said today any project would need approval from the Georgia Department of Transportation for signalization and other changes because it is on a state-maintained highway.

A 54,000-square-foot second phase also is planned for “future development” and will include “big box” retail development with nine individual tenant spaces, according to plans.

Completion of the first phase is expected by December 2021, with completion of both phases by the end of 2023. 

A total of 19 acres will be developed and covered with impervious surfaces, according to submitted plans. 

Developers plan to keep natural buffering already in place along the north side of the project to screen truck parking from I-20 and the project will be set back 100 feet from Hwy. 11, according to a rezoning petition the developer submitted to Newton County.

The site is between the city of Social Circle and Hub Junction, near Georgia State University’s Newton Campus. It now has some small convenience stores in the area but nothing of the size Jones Petroleum is planning.