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Salem Overlay project meeting productive
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Newton County residents had another chance to give feedback and have their questions answered about the Salem Overlay District project at a final informational meeting on the project.

A public meeting was held on Thursday at Gateway Community Church, where attendees were given a brief overview of the Salem Overlay project, and had the opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions concerning the project.

The intent of the Salem Road Overlay is to create a more livable and walkable Salem Road area by creating close-knit communities to keep the small-town charm of Newton County, in conjunction with the county’s 2050 plan — a plan that looks to control growth and direct it toward the already dense western side of the county, promoting town centers that will include the majority of the county’s housing, businesses and other amenities, allowing the county to save lots of money on future infrastructure.

The idea of the overlay is to divide the Salem Road corridor from the Rockdale County line to Ga. Highway 81 into three different development tiers.

Tier 1 would take up the majority of the corridor, including some side streets off Salem Road, and would allow mainly residential with some neighborhood commercial uses. Tier 2 would include some mixed-use residential and light commercial uses. Tier 3 would have the heaviest commercial use, but would also be a mixed-use area that would have high walkability.

The zoning overlay would also place certain development standards on any future building or development that takes place in the corridor to ensure that it’s consistent with what area residents and county officials want.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners and BOC Chairman Keith Ellis all attended Thursday night’s meeting. Commissioners Nancy Schulz and Lanier Sims led the discussions about the project, which would touch four of the five districts in the county.

"I think we had good discussions and we were able to answer a lot of the citizens’ questions about the Salem Overlay," Sims said. "We are going to make a few more changes before the work session on March 5. It looks like we are doing good with it and we’ve got the citizens on board."

"We had good dialogue in the audience and all the commissioners were actually there mixed in the audience," Sims said. "It was good that all the commissioners came out to support. Because there are other overlays that are going to be in District one and District 5."

Schulz said the meeting was another chance to listen to the constituents.

"At the beginning of the meeting, a lot of people had a lot of questions, but at the end of the meeting, I believe that people came to the conclusion that the overlay does give protection to the corridor, does protect their home value and protects future development in terms of a positive direction," Schulz said.

"I was very appreciative of the other commissioners that showed up. I was very appreciative that the chair was so positive about the overlay. I think we are continuing to move in a positive direction."

Scott Sirotkin, director of the Newton County Department of Development Service, said the BOC will discuss the Salem overlay during its March 5 work session. The board is scheduled to consider the Salem Overlay again on March 19.

For more information on the Salem Road Overlay District and to view documents and maps related to the project, visit Sirotkin said a new draft of the ordinance will be available on the website by the end next week.