NEWBORN — A property that was being used for a business in a residential zone in Newborn will not be rezoned for another commercial use.
The Newborn Town Council voted unanimously Monday night to deny a rezoning request by Betts Environmental to rezone about 4 acres at 158 North Johnson St. for use as a site for equipment storage and maintenance. The property is owned by Wanda Cummings, former mayor of Newborn. She and her husband, J.W. Cummings, also a former mayor, operated a grading business on the site next to their home on North Johnson Street for 36 years.
Cummings has moved to Monticello and has contracted to sell the property to Betts Environmental.
Town Attorney Joe Reitman said the Cummings’ commercial use of the property was apparently grandfathered as a nonconforming use when the town implemented zoning in 1999.
“That use continued for a number of years,” said Reitman. “I think there were discussions on both sides of the aisle as to whether or not that use continues to this day or not. That’s the determination for the mayor and council to make. The reason I mention that is that the default under Georgia law is that, if there is 12 months of discontinuance of a nonconforming use, the presumption is that the nonconforming use has terminated and the grandfather goes away.”
A full house at the town’s Zeigler-Childs Building heard Tony Betts, owner and president of Betts Environmental, say that his family-owned business based in Adel does drilling and geotechnical work on everything from high rise buildings to highway bridges to Waffle Houses. Betts said he had previously used property in Conyers and most recently in Oxford to store and maintain drill rigs and other equipment but left because of traffic congestion.
“We are simply purchasing the property for storage and minor maintenance,” he said.
Betts said he has been using the property at “90 percent capacity” for the past two months. The use involved employees arriving and leaving in pickup trucks, equipment brought to the site for maintenance, some welding and oil changes, and storage of concrete, sand and PVC pipe.
Resident Patrick Kearney, who had circulated a petition against the zoning change, cited multiple trips in and out of the property — some in the early morning hours — and said he doesn’t see the property as a good fit for the business. He said he was concerned about noise, traffic and the possibility that the rezoning would set a precedent for future businesses.
Ultimately, Kearney said, it is a quality of life issue.
“I just don’t see this as the correct use for this property, and it’s going to hurt the whole town,” he said.
Susan Oliveto, co-owner of Porter Manor Gardens Venue, located just east of the subject project, said she was concerned that the business would increase traffic, lower property values and have a negative impact on the historic district and quality of life in Newborn.
Several other residents also spoke against the rezoning, citing similar concerns.
Reitman advised the council that they could approve or deny the rezoning request, or approve it with some conditions. The council briefly discussed the request before voting to deny.