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Covington police recover stolen U-Haul containing family's belongings, ashes of their son
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COVINGTON — Law enforcement authorities have located a U-Haul moving truck and trailer stolen from a local motel that contained all of a couple’s belongings — including the ashes of their son who died five years ago at the age of 6 months.

Covington Police Capt. Ken Malcom said the moving truck and trailer were found on the roadside in Forest Park early Thursday morning after the vehicles were stolen shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday from the parking lot of LaQuinta Inn on Access Road.

Malcom said the thieves had gone through all the boxes in the truck, dumping out and scattering the contents. They took several items of furniture and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle from the U-Haul truck and trailer. Although police searched the truck throughout the morning Thursday, Malcom said they were unable to locate the child’s ashes, which were contained in a heart-shaped box.

Malcom said officers from the CPD also searched woods and Dumpsters near where the truck and trailer were found in case the thieves had dumped some items there.

According to Malcom, the family was moving from South Carolina to Louisiana when they stopped overnight in Covington. At about 8:30 Wednesday morning when they went out to resume their journey, they found the moving truck and trailer had been stolen.

At least three people are suspected of stealing the truck and trailer, according to Covington Police. Video surveillance footage from the hotel showed a large black SUV drop off a man possibly wearing a gray top, light colored pants and a light-colored baseball cap on a side street next to the hotel at about 1:17 a.m. Wednesday. The man walked along the roadway to the eastern end of the hotel parking lot where the U-Haul was parked, in an effort to avoid the hotel’s surveillance cameras.

A few minutes later the man drove away in the U-Haul traveling west on Access Road. A compact or mid-size car met with the SUV briefly before those vehicles, too, drove away. The SUV followed the U-Haul west on Access Road.

Malcom said the truck had front-end damage when it was recovered in Clayton County.

Governor administers oath of office to Bills, Cuthpert
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Gov. Brian Kemp has finalized a number of changes to the Rockdale County court system over the past few weeks. Kemp recently administered the oath of office to new Superior Court Judge Nancy Bills and new State Court Judge Clarence Cuthpert Jr.

Bills was appointed by the governor to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Judge David Irwin, and Cuthpert was appointed to succeed Bills on the State Court bench.

The governor has also appointed Gary Washington as the county’s new Probate Court judge. Washington previously served as associate judge in the Probate Court under Cuthpert.

Associate Judge Gary Washington appointed to Probate Court judge position
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CONYERS — Gov. Brian Kemp has appointed Associate Probate Court Judge Gary Washington to succeed Clarence Cuthpert Jr. as the Probate Court judge of Rockdale County.

Washington’s appointment follows the appointment of Cuthpert to Rockdale County State Court. Washington’s appointment was effective immediately.

“I am excited to take this next step in serving my fellow citizens of Rockdale,” said Washington. “Our court is already one of the best in the state, as the appointment of Judge Cuthpert, to the State Court demonstrates. I look forward to building on what we already have and making it even better for the people who interact with us.”

Washington has more than 30 years of experience as an attorney and served as an associate judge in the Probate Court until his appointment as judge. Washington also serves on the Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia, a statewide organization. In addition to practicing law, Washington is also the immediate past chair of the Board of Trustees for the Conyers-Rockdale Library System, a member of the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office Merit Board and the Rockdale County NAACP. Washington and his wife Evetta worship at Antioch-Lithonia Missionary Baptist Church.

For more information please contact the Probate Court at 770-278-7700 or visit the website at the site at: https://rockdalecountyga.gov/county-departments/court-services/probate-court.

Publix will anchor Town Center mixed-use development in Covington
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COVINGTON — The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday what some people in the area have been longing to hear — Publix plans to build a supermarket in the Covington Town Center development.

The Town Center store will be the second in the Newton County market, joining the store located on Brown Bridge Road in the western part of the county.

Serra Hall, vice president of Project Development for the Newton County Industrial Development Authority, credited the Town Center development team — including Sembler Company retail development and Berkley Development — with recruiting the supermarket chain.

“It has been a long time coming, and we are very excited,” said Hall. “Without Harry Kitchen and The Foxfield Company, along with Sembler and Berkley, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Hall said the supermarket anchor is a “key piece” in the 160-acre Covington Town Center project, which is under development off Alcovy Road.

“This was part of the vision of Town Center, to create an opportunity for a mixed-use development with an additional grocery anchor that is unlike our other grocery anchors in town, and to complement them,” she said.

Construction on the 48,000-square-feet Town Center Publix is expected to start this summer.

Hall said residents should stay tuned for further announcements about Town Center.

“This is just the beginning of new announcements for Covington Town Center, and we look forward to seeing more projects come to fruition and more development coming soon,” she said.

According to a release from Sembler, the Town Center Publix will be the anchor for the first phase of the development. An additional 14,400 square feet of small shop space will include a mix of services, restaurants and retail. The second phase of the development is expected to add up to 100,000 square feet, to include retail and office space, residential properties and hotels.

“The objective for our 160-acre mixed use project is to identify the ‘best in class’ of each use type, whether it is hospitality, residential, office, restaurant or retail,” said Harry Kitchen of The Foxfield Company, the project’s master developer. “I certainly think the Sembler-Berkley Team and Publix fit that description and will bring the highest quality grocer-anchored center to the project.”

“Covington Town Center will bring a first-class shopping experience to a mixed-used project in an area showing promising growth,” said Berkley Development President Mike Cohn. “We’re excited to work with the Sembler Company in bringing a Publix-anchored retail center to this project, which we believe will quickly become a staple shopping destination.”

The Sembler Company holds a 40-plus year relationship with Publix supermarkets, having developed over 60 Publix-anchored shopping centers throughout the Southeastern United States.

“We believe Covington Town Center will be a premier retail destination that will provide modern convenience for the surrounding community,” said Sembler Senior Vice President Josh Beyer.

Is Rockdale County becoming a townhouse community?
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CONYERS — Is Rockdale County becoming a townhome community? With the Board of Commissioners approving the construction of 153 townhomes last month, appearing on the verge of approving another development of 251 townhomes this month, and with still another developer on the next zoning board agenda with a 100-unit townhouse project, the county could soon become known as a townhome community. But not everyone — mainly single family homeowners near the developments — is happy about it.

Plus with much of the available home building space in residentially zoned areas of the county already in development, the townhouse projects are beginning to encroach onto previously zoned commercial or industrial sites.

On Feb. 9, the BOC approved a 153-townhome development on 14.93 acres on Old Covington Highway and Salem Industrial Boulevard for DRH Properties. The approval came with zoning and future land use map changes from light industrial to high density residential, and hinged on the developer and the adjacent BJ’s Warehouse Club reaching an agreement on a sound-deadening berm.

At its Feb. 23 zoning hearing, the BOC heard from InLine Communities, which is seeking to build 251 townhomes on 60.2 acres on Gees Mill Road and Glenn Road. The project would require a zoning change from R-1 (single family) to R-M (multi-family), and a future land use map change from light industrial and medium density residential to high density residential.

The developers originally presented a proposal to build 177 units on 28.1 acres in August of last year but withdrew their request after the BOC expressed concerns about traffic, safety and design standards.

After purchasing additional acreage, InLine came back before the board with 251 three-bedroom units with two-car garages on 60.2 acres, a reduction in density for the project, which now includes a large green space area in the center of the site and other amenities.

The commissioners thanked the developers for the changes they made, with Post 1 Commissioner Sherri Washington praising them for listening to the county’s concerns.

“They came to us and started to realize what we want our standards for our community to be,” Washington said. “We want the best design within a certain price point in order for them to come in and build a townhome community in Rockdale County. Not only did they listen, but they exceeded what I said.”

But single-family home residents living in the area of where the townhome development would be did not agree with that assessment. They brought up concerns dealing with water and sewer capacity in the area, the impact of additional children on local schools, whether the roads are adequate for the additional traffic, a lack of sidewalks for pedestrians, and a concern about the crime rate going up with an influx of new residents.

The BOC will vote on the townhouse project request at its March 23 meeting.

On March 11, the Rockdale County Planning Commission will hear a rezoning request for a 100-townhome development on Old Salem Road. The rezoning would be from C-2 (General Commercial) to R-M (Rsidential Multifamily) and would require a change in the future land use map from commercial use to high density residential. Residents in the area, some in their 70s and 80s, are already expressing concerns and questions about the proposed project and the effects it could have on them and their homes.