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Conyers OKs controversial apartment rezoning
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CONYERS — The City Council gave its final approval to a controversial apartment rezoning Wednesday night, setting the stage for the development of a 265-unit gated complex at Ga. Highway 20 and Millers Chapel Road.

The second reading of the rezoning ordinance was approved 4-1, with council member Connie Alsobrook opposed. The first reading of the ordinance was approved at the council’s May 19 meeting by a vote of 3-2, with Alsobrook and council member Valyncia Smith opposed. On Wednesday night, Smith made the motion to approve.

Mayor Vince Evans told those present that the rezoning issue was not an easy decision for the council.

“This has probably been the toughest question in my 22 years, and I think we can clearly see both sides,” he said. “It’s not a tie; we’ve got to pick one way or the other, so it’s a tough choice. I think we’ve all tried to think it through.”

The rezonings and accompanying changes to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan encompass three separate tracts totaling 25.25 acres. The property will be developed by Lennar Atlanta of Roswell. The one- and two-bedroom apartments, which will be called Emblem Conyers, will be marketed to young professionals, older adults and retirees with rents ranging from $1,350 to $1,600 per month.

The Conyers-Rockdale Planning Commission had recommended denial of the rezoning requests at its May 13 meeting without comment. At a public hearing held before by the City Council on May 19, a number of residents of the area spoke out against the project, including residents of single-family home neighborhoods in the vicinity of the property — Martha’s Vineyard, Nob Hill/Downing Park, Irwin Place, Henson Village and Weatherstone. They presented a petition with 400 signatures of those against the complex.

Many of those in opposition were at Wednesday night’s meeting, apparently anticipating an opportunity to again express their opposition. However, since a public hearing was held at the May 19, no public comment was allowed prior to Wednesday night’s vote.

Opponents did speak at the end of the meeting during the public comment period, reiterating their concerns about increased traffic, stress on aging infrastructure, potential overcrowding of schools, and public safety demands.

Heritage Class of 2021 earns many accolades
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CONYERS — Heritage High School’s Class of 2021 ended commencement ceremonies May 28 with a bang as fireworks lit up the sky to celebrate the class that overcame more than the usual high school challenges.

Valedictorian Mackenzie Sealy spoke to friends, families and faculty at graduation exercises at Charles Evans Memorial Stadium about the challenges of figuring out high school in general, comparing that process to solving a Rubik’s cube. Then, she said, senior year came along and presented even more challenges for the Class of 2021.

“For me it was one of my most difficult years of my life, and I’m sure it was for many of you as well,” she said. “But turns out, it would take more than a pandemic to stop us!”

Sealy congratulated her classmates on their resiliency and toughness as they prepare for the future.

“It’s bittersweet to be closing off this chapter of our lives,” she said. “But it’s time to enter into a new one: adulthood. I can’t wait to see the great things that you all will go on to accomplish.”

Salutatorian Jaca Buddenbaum encouraged her classmates to continue to live a life of discovery beyond high school.

“Whatever the discovery, we will figure it out with supportive family and friends around,” she said. “After all, wasn’t that what this whole thing was about, preparing to figure it out? We’re going to make it. We’ll be all right. To quote one of my favorite lyrics, ‘Take a breath and let the rest come easy.’”

Principal LaTonya Richards reflected on some of the accomplishments of the Class of 2021, noting that 129 members of the class are honor graduates, which requires a minimum GPA of 3.5. Sixty-six percent of the class took dual enrollment classes; 300 received a Pathway Skills Seal on their diploma; 200 received a Distinguished Pathway Skills Seal; 50 received an Employability/Soft Skills Seal; 50 received a Distinguished Employability/Soft Skills Seal; 100 received a Leadership Skills Seal, and 50 received a Distinguished Leadership Skills Seal.

Graduates plan to go on to attend schools such as the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, Georgia College, Columbus State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Mercer, Valdosta State, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse, Spelman, Gwinnet Tech, Clemson, the University of Mississippi, Tennessee State, University of Alabama, and the University of Florida. Richards said Heritage High will be represented by students entering all branches of the Armed Forces.

The Class of 2021 has been offered academic and athletic scholarships totaling more than $1.5 million.

Richards also noted that this was the fourth class to graduate from Heritage’s Academy for Performing and Visual Arts and earned the coveted Georgia Department of Education Fine Arts Seal.

“The list of accolades could go on and on for the Class of 2021,” said Richards “You have made Heritage proud, and as principal, I am well pleased. So as you leave Heritage High, remember, whatever you believe in you will become. Always leave people and places better than you found them. Mistakes are a part of life; it’s the response to the error that counts. If you fall down seven times, get up eight. Be strong and courageous. And always, always set the stage for excellence.

Congratulations, Class of 2021.”

Newton commissioners use $2.6 million from Stanton Springs to offset 2022 capital expenses
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COVINGTON — Newton County will use $2.6 million it received from the sale of property by the Joint Development Authority at Stanton Springs to reduce its fiscal year 2022 general fund budget.

During a budget presentation Tuesday night, County Manager Lloyd Kerr explained that the $2.6 million was used to reduce the total proposed general fund budget from about $81 million to $78.1 million. Even with that reduction, the proposed budget is 2.5% more than the fiscal year 2021 budget of $76.2 million due to increased expenditures in a number of county departments.

Kerr said the $2.6 million will actually be spent in 2021 to fund capital projects, which means those projects will not be included in the budget for 2022.

District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson said that taxpayers had long been told to expect that the county would receive tax relief from its investment in economic development at Stanton Springs, which is owned by Newton, Walton, Morgan and Jasper counties. Henderson said he wanted a dollar figure for how much tax savings property owners could expect from the $2.6 million.

Finance Director Brittany White explained that the calculation was not that straightforward since the money was being used to offset other capital costs that were initially included in the 2022 budget, thereby reducing the overall budget. She presented a budget transfer resolution for those capital expenditures, including:

♦ $40,000 for a server for GIS

♦ $39,140 software NextGen project

♦ $41,887 for software for the Tax Commissioner’s Office

♦ $500,000 in vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office

♦ $200,000 in miscellaneous capital equipment for the Sheriff’s Office

♦ $50,000 for the Newton County jail

♦ $30,000 for Station 1 renovations for Fire Services

♦ $46,500 for a truck for Fire Services

♦ $29,000 for nozzle hose for Fire Services

♦ $50,000 for an Animal Services surgery suite — partial funding

♦ $49,522 for a one-ton truck for Public Works

♦ $70,000 for two trucks for Development Services

♦ $100,000 for audio equipment for courtrooms

♦ $100,000 for paint for the Historic Courthouse

♦ $80,000 for a generator at the Administration Building

♦ $40,000 for carpet at the Administration Building

♦ $150,000 for unforeseen building repairs

♦ $987,201 miscellaneous recreation projects

Commissioners approved the transfer of the $2.6 million to these capital projects, with Henderson abstaining.

District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards pointed out that it would be hard to quantify a per-person dollar amount in tax savings from the $2.6 million, “but it took $2.6 million out of the next fiscal year budget,” he said. “While it may be hard to quantify … that money from the JDA has definitely gone toward needs for this county, and it’s money we don’t hav to ask our taxpayers for.”

Two public hearings on the budget will be held before adoption of the budget. The first public hearing is set for Tuesday, June 8, at 6 p.m.; the second is set for Tuesday, June 15, at 6 p.m. Both public hearings will be held at the Historic Courthouse.

Final adoption of the budget is set for Tuesday, June 15, at 7 p.m.

The Historic Courthouse is located at 1124 Clark St., Covington.

Note to readers

In today’s edition of the Citizen, readers will find some changes to our Comics and Weather pages. In particular, we have added some new puzzles to challenge your brainpower and enlarged some of the puzzles to enhance readers’ enjoyment of these games.

In addition, in Wednesday’s edition, readers will find a new column on the Weather page, “Mystery Plant,” written by John Nelson, the retired curator of the A.C. Moore Herbarium at the University of South Carolina. Each week, Nelson examines a different plant you may have seen many times without really knowing what it is.

We hope these new additions and changes will enrich your readership experience with the Citizen.