COVINGTON — Hundreds of residents of eastern Newton County breathed a collective sigh of relief Tuesday after the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to reject a rezoning request that would have allowed construction of a truck stop/travel center.
Bill Jones, who owns and operates a similar facility on I-75 in Butts County, had asked the county to rezone 46.12 acres at the intersection of Ga. Highway 11 and Interstate 20. Part of that tract is already zoned CH (highway commercial) and part is AR (agricultural). Jones was asking that the entire property be zoned CH and that a conditional use permit be granted to allow development of a large truck stop/travel center. The property lies within the Brick Store Overlay zoning district.
During a public hearing on the rezoning, Jones told commissioners he has business ties to Newton County, having purchased Anderson Oil in 1982 and another company from C.P. Allgood. He said he has developed a number of convenience stores int he market, particularly in the rural portions of the county.
Jones said his proposed development at the intersection of Ga. Highway 11 and I-20 does not conform with the typical “truck stop.” He said when developing the facility on I-75 “we set out to build a facility on the interstate highways that would be attractive to family units that travel up and down the interstate. You know, when you are traveling, the mama in the group is going to decide where you are going to stop, and that is going to depend on what kind of facility is available to them on the interstate highways.”
After three years of research, Jones said the Butts travel center was developed for the “motoring public.”
He added that large clean restrooms are a focus of the facility and that there is a separate entrance for “ladies and men who drive the trucks … they have a separate retail area and shower facilities.”
“I don’t think if you ever took the time to go visit this facility, you would come away with a negative connotation in your mind about the facility itself,” he added.
According to the developer’s letter of intent, Phase 1 of Jones’ project would have included 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 called for 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.
During public comment in opposition to the rezoning, former commissioner LeAnn Long said she had visited the facility in Butts County and noted that it is located in an “industrial area” and not in an overlay district like Brick Store Overlay, which includes Georgia State’s Perimeter College campus and a number of residential areas.
Wayne Pugh, a resident of River Cove subdivision and owner of a small LTL trucking firm, said a truck stop or travel center should not be located across the street from a college or within 1 to 1 1/2 miles from neighborhoods.
“That is just absolutely absurd,” he said.
Pugh also pointed out that there would be a good amount of runoff from the paved areas at the truck stop. That water would contain oil, fuel, and other contaminants that would pollute the nearby wetlands.
Pugh also said there would be noise pollution and fumes from idling trucks, which he said are toxic and can cause cancer. Other concerns he listed were drugs and crime attracted by truck stops, increased traffic congestion on Ga. Highway 11 and increased demands on infrastructure at the intersection with I-20.
Pugh said he had 915 signatures from Newton residents on a petition opposing the truck stop.
“We are crying out to you to oppose this truck stop, please,” he said.
At the close of public comment, District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards, in whose district the truck stop would have been located, made a motion to deny the rezoning request. Edwards said his decision had nothing to do with Jones Petroleum or any other truck stop. He said the Brick Store Overlay, along with the Almon Overlay and the Salem Overlay, were created more than a dozen years ago to encourage the type of growth the communities want.
“A truck stop or travel center … is just not in keeping with what we are trying to create in the educational village-type atmosphere in that area,” said Edwards.
Edwards’ motion to deny the rezoning was seconded by District 2 Commissioner Demond Mason.
A companion request for a conditional use permit for the property was not heard because the rezoning did not move forward.