COVINGTON — The process of establishing a zoning overlay district for a large mixed-use development will move forward after a split vote by the Covington City Council. The council’s 3-2 vote will allow the request for a zoning text amendment to be heard by the Covington Planning Commission, which will then make a recommendation to the City Council. Two public readings will be required before the council could vote to approve or deny the overlay request.
Developer Eric Johansen presented the Alcovy Overlay District request to the council at its Jan. 17 meeting, saying that the overlay would allow for “a more unique layout” and the ability to put multiple uses in the same development without multiple zonings. If approved by the council, the overlay district could include multi-family residential, commercial and industrial uses in one 400-acre development off Alcovy Road and Ga. Highway 142. The site, collectively known as the Williams property, is currently zoned M-2.
City Attorney Frank Turner Jr. explained that once an overlay is in place, developers would not need to go through the typical rezoning process for each development use. The city currently has two overlay districts — for the Clark’s Grove and Town Center developments.
Council member Fleeta Baggett urged fellow council members to table the request until the Feb. 6 meeting so that the full council could be present. Member Susie Keck was absent from the meeting. The development lies within her district.
Baggett pointed out that the Town Center development turned out to be different from what was first proposed by developer Harry Kitchens.
“Not anything except for the Publix that is out there is what it is supposed to be,” said Baggett. … “You know that once (the overlay) is done, that you have no say on what is done out there.”
Baggett’s motion to table the overlay text amendment request failed 2-3, with council members Kenneth Morgan, Charika Davis and Anthony Henderson opposed. Member Don Floyd voted in favor.
Morgan said he was aware the effort to table the request would likely change the balance of the vote if Keck were present.
Morgan also said he views the city’s other overlays as successes.
“From my perspective, I would rather see growth, I would rather see something that is positive for our community rather than seeing a pasture with cows,” he said.
Two residents who live near the proposed development spoke in opposition to the overlay amendment.
Matt Crowe, who lives on nearby Cornish Mountain Road, said he did not understand why the city would give up control over the development.
“Basically you are allowing somebody to have an open zoning, to put anything they want in there anytime they want,” he said. “I think this property was originally designed for industrial use. I’m not sure it is still set up for that, but if the landowner and developer want to put a particular commercial or residential development in there, I think it should be zoned just for that.”
The project site encompasses nearly 400 acres, with 33 acres of deeded green space, 296 acres of industrial/commercial space, 23 acres of townhomes comprised of 250 units maximum, and 29 acres of apartments, comprised of 369 units maximum. A parkway into the site, with access off Ga. Highway 142 and Alcovy Road, would total 8.976 acres. As proposed by developer Newton Land Investments LLC , the project would be built in two phases, with buildout estimated to be 2030. The property is owned by Southpoint Land Company LLC, JBW Investments LLC, and JF Land Investments LLC.
As the overlay text amendment request moves forward, the city is also grappling with how to provide needed sewage treatment capacity to the site if it is developed. The city has sought bids for improvements to the Eastside Sewerage System in order to provide the needed capacity. It is unclear if the improvements would be in place in time to meet the needs of new development.
In the meantime, City Manager Tres Thomas said city staff members are working with developers to find solutions to the sewer issues pending completion of the Eastside improvements.
I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.
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