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Upset residents unload frustrations on Newton townhome plans
Fairview Road townhome opponents
Broderick L. Johnson Sr. discusses a plan for townhomes on Fairview Road that was later withdrawn March 16 amid heavy opposition from neighboring residents. Planning commissioners approved a single-family subdivision plan with little opposition on the same site May 25. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Some area residents’ withering opposition to separate townhome development plans recently apparently prompted one developer to withdraw though another moved ahead with future plans amid complaints to Newton County commissioners.

Christopher Harrell representing Alpharetta-based Summit Engineering Consultants withdrew his plan for a 120-unit townhome project on Fairview Road after neighboring residents strongly objected to his request for rezoning from single-family to multi-family on the 25-acre site.

However, developer Jim Chapman was able to convince the Newton County Board of Commissioners March 16 to approve a change in the future land use map for residential development on a site planned for industrial uses on Ga. Highway 142 at City Pond Road. 

Harrell withdrew the townhome plan and county officials said he planned to develop the site as a single-family subdivision — for which it is already zoned.

The site is adjacent to the 318-unit Cobblestone apartment complex that county planning commissioners approved in October on Fairview Road on land already zoned for multi-family development. 

Speaker after speaker at the March 16 Board of Commissioners meeting talked about the need for upgrading the two-lane Fairview Road, as well as the potential for overcrowdedness in area schools.

Susan Jackson said the county had not invested in the infrastructure needed to support such developments.

Other residents said developers were from outside Newton County and not invested in increasing the county’s quality of life.

Sandra Hines said she wanted commissioners to support what local residents wanted rather than outside developers.

“It’s time for y’all to stand up for us,” she said.

Speakers also complained that the area lacked such amenities as parks and playgrounds for young people. 

Some said traffic tended to back up on Fairview Road from its intersection with Access Road — while others complained that vehicles often sped on the narrow road. 

County commissioners’ approval March 16 of a change in the land use map will allow Chapman, owner of Atlanta-based Jim Chapman Communities, to request a rezoning for construction of a planned 227-unit townhome development on 35 acres just outside the Covington city limits near the new Three Ring Studios.

He told the commissioners he was targeting his Cottages at Studio Village to seniors willing to pay up to $1,600 a month. 

But the Fairview Road homeowners complained that such developments typically opened with developers intending to maintain high standards and eventually becoming typical rental complexes that were not properly maintained and bred crime.

One also alluded to trash proliferating on the side of some county roads that prospective high-income renters would find undesirable.  

Chapman replied that he had not found any such problems with crime developing in a similar complex he developed in Athens.

“This will not be low-income. This will not be Section 8,” he said.

Commissioner J.C. Henderson said he understood how residents feel after seeing the performance of past projects but believed this complex would be of better quality.

“I personally think for District 4 this is a good project,” he said.

In other action on March 16, commissioners narrowly voted to reappoint Chairman Marcello Banes to the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton & Walton Counties.

The board voted 3-2 to reappoint Banes rather than appointing Henderson — who was nominated by Commissioner Alana Sanders.

Sanders has said she wanted other commissioners considered for agencies like the Joint Development Authority and Solid Waste Management Authority — both of which Banes is a member — because of such issues as what she said was a lack of transparency.

However, Banes had promised to veto any attempt to replace him and fellow member Jerry Silvio.

District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards said he nominated Banes for another term on the JDA to keep a team in place that had successfully recruited such projects as the Facebook Data Center and a second major project to Stanton Springs business park. 

“I don’t want to upset that apple cart,” Edwards said.