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Permit sought for convenience store at site where truck stop was denied
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COVINGTON — Would-be developers of a truck stop in eastern Newton County are looking to move forward with the convenience store/restaurant component of their project, pending a court ruling on whether or not they can add a truck stop to the project.

A request for a Conditional Use Permit for a convenience store and gas station at Ga. Highway 11 and I-20 was scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission Tuesday night. The property is a portion of the same tract where a rezoning request for a large-scale truck stop was denied by the Board of Commissioners in March. The county is facing an appeal in Superior Court over that denial.

According to Development Services Director Judy Johnson, JPC Design & Construction LLC and property owner Jack P. Davis are requesting that the CUP be granted for property already zoned Highway Commercial. That rezoning would allow development of the convenience store. However, the permit is required because the land is located in a protected watershed area. There is a convenience store and gas station already located across Highway 11 from the property, and two more less than a mile away at the Hub junction at Highway 11 and U.S. Highway 278.

The property is part of two parcels where the property owner and developer had sought to rezone two tracts comprising 46 acres. Part of the property is zoned Highway Commercial and part is Agricultural Residential. Plans for the site called for a travel center featuring a 24,500-square-foot building with a convenience store and fuel sales for automobiles and semi-trucks, along with Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway fast food restaurants. The plan included 20 multi-product fuel dispensers for autos, eight fueling lanes for semi-trucks, and certified CAT Scales for semis. The convenience store site was designed with 153 parking spaces for automobiles. There would also be 10 parking spaces for RVs, buses and commercial trucks and drive through lanes for the Burger King and Dunkin Donuts. The semi-truck parking lot would have 120 parking spaces.

Phase 2 of the project, listed as future development, would include big box retail space with nine individual tenant spaces.

The Board of Commissioners denied the rezoning on Feb. 16, citing the fact that a truck stop is not consistent with plans for an educational institution/village-type atmosphere planned for the area as part of the Brick Store Overlay zoning.

The property is located near the Newton Campus of Georgia State University, and several large-lot subdivisions are in the vicinity. Homeowners in the area strongly opposed the rezoning.

The owner and developer subsequently filed an appeal in Newton County Superior Court seeking to overturn the denial.

In the appeal filed March 18, Davis and JPC ask the court to declare the AR zoning unconstitutional and void, reverse the denial of the rezoning and the CUP and remand the request to the Board of Commissioners for further consideration. The petitioners also ask that they be awarded damages equal to the value that the property has been diminished by the AR zoning.

The plaintiffs allege that commissioners voted to deny the rezoning and CUP based on their “unsubstantiated claim that the project was a ‘truck stop.’” The plaintiffs claim that commissioners should have been able to address concerns about a “truck stop” by imposing reasonable conditions on the development.

They also claim that the county has a “decades-long pattern, practice and policy” of allowing commercial uses in the general area where development is moving away from single-family uses.


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Ribbon cutting held for splash pad at Denny Dobbs Park
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COVINGTON — The splash pad at Denny Dobbs Park opened Thursday with much fanfare and excitement — especially for the youngsters who were the first to get to try it out.

Newton Board of Commissioners Chairman Marcello Banes called the occasion “a great day for Newton County” and thanked all those involved in the project.

The splash pad was first proposed by Boy Scout Harrison Kirkham as his Eagle project. Kirkham was not able to attend Thursday’s ribbon-cutting because he is out of state on a church mission trip. However, his parents were there and presented a check for $2,000 in donations that Kirkham collected for the project. Speaking to the gathering by phone, Kirkham thanked his parents for their support, as well as county and Recreation Department leaders.

“It really was the community that came together to make this happen,” said Kirkham.

The project, funded through 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars, began under the leadership of former District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims and was completed after he left office and was succeeded by Commissioner Demond Mason.

County Manager Lloyd Kerr thanked taxpayers for approving the SPLOST in 2017, which allowed the county to undertake a number of capital projects, including the splash pad.

“This is your pennies at work,” he said. “So thank you for that.”

The splash pad will officially open to the public on Saturday, May 29. There will be no admission charge. Denny Dobbs Park is located on Ga. Highway 212 in the southern portion of Newton County.


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Walk of Heroes to host Memorial Day program
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CONYERS — The Walk of Heroes will honor the memory of fallen soldiers with a Memorial Day ceremony featuring remarks by Rockdale native Chaplain, Lt. Col. Stacey L. Hanson.

The event is scheduled for May 31, 11 a.m., at the Walk of Heroes, 3001 Black Shoals Road Conyers. The program will also feature the singing of the National Anthem by Rockdale native and world-renowned opera singer Theresa Hamm-Smith.

Hanson is the son of Lillis Brown, who serves as a volunteer for the Walk of Heroes. Hanson is a licensed and ordained elder and certified professional educator who has served eight unique United Methodist churches in North and South Georgia and South Carolina for over 18 years as pastor in charge and chief administrative officer. In additon, he is the division chief of Plans, Programs and Training, Headquarters, Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base. He assists and advises the command chaplain with career field management tasks such as recruiting, commissioning, and training, and directs the total force Chaplain Candidate Program.

Brown said it is particularly gratifying to have Rockdale natives Hamm-Smith and Hanson take part in the Memorial Day program.

“We are also excited to host our program post-pandemic,” she said. “We had to cancel the November Veterans Day program because of the pandemic and weather. We want our community to know about the veterans park and that it will be open, albeit the county parks are closed.”


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Man charged with murder after allegedly hitting another man in head with hammer repeatedly
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CONYERS — Rockdale County Sheriff’s deputies have charged a man with murder after he allegedly repeatedly hit another man over the head with a hammer. According to Fox 5 Atlanta News, the victim, 58-year-old Jimmy Vance, died Friday, May 21, after a series of complications from his original injuries.

Vance was working to make repairs at a boarded up building on Broad Street on May 16 when the suspect, Roy Blane Dees, allegedly asked him for help. The Sheriff’s Office said that Dees struck Vance in the head with a hammer multiple times and then fled. Dees was later found after someone called the Sheriff’s Office about a suspicious person. Dees faces murder and other charges in connection with Vance’s death.

Vance’s son, Joseph Vance, said his father’s final moments were spent doing what he loves. He described his father as a caring handyman who thought he was helping someone in need when that person violently beat him.

Witnesses told deputies the beating happened “for no reason at all.” His son said his father did not know the suspect.

Vance was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital where his son said he later had a stroke from the hammer injuries. He died Friday afternoon.

The Citizen has a news sharing agreement with Fox 5 Atlanta.


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