COVINGTON — Newton County is being asked to rezone 46 acres in the eastern portion of the county for development of a $15 million truck stop and auto fueling station.
Jackson-based Jones Petroleum and developer William B. Jones have submitted a rezoning request to Newton County Development Services for rezoning of land at the I-20 interchange with Ga. Highway 11. The Georgia State University Newton Campus and the planned Mt. Pleasant mixed-use development are located just south of the development site off Ga. Highway 11.
According to the developer’s letter of intent, Phase 1 of the project would include 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 calls for 20 multi-product fuel dispensers for autos, eight fueling lanes for semi-trucks, and certified CAT Scales for semis. The convenience store site is 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 developer is asking that the land be rezoned from AR (agricultural residential) to CH (highway commercial), along with a conditional use permit. Adjacent uses are agricultural, commercial and institutional. If the rezoning is approved, the developer estimates a completion date for Phase 1 of December 2021, with overall completion by December 2023.
District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards, in whose district the development would be built, compared it with the Jones Petroleum travel center on I-75 in Jackson.
“I’ve seen detailed pictures of it,” said Edwards. “It’s a very nice-looking, well-kept establishment.” However, added Edwards, he is not in favor of the project, has spoken with residents of District 1 and adjacent District 5, and has found no support for the development.
“I’ve come to the conclusion it’s not going to be a good fit for the college or village-type atmosphere we are trying to create down that way,” he said.
Edwards said he would not be opposed to a convenience center and gas station at the site, something that would be compatible with existing uses. A BP gas station and convenience store are located directly across Highway 11 from the development site.
Edwards also said he has concerns about human trafficking, drugs and strain on law enforcement resources that could result from the development. Traffic is also an issue, he said.
“I don’t want to put any more truck traffic on (Highway) 11 than we have right now,” he said, noting that Ga. Highway 11 is used by trucks to travel between I-75 and I-20 without going through Atlanta. “ … the trucks that come through Mansfield speeding — it’s alarming to say the least,” he said.
The developer estimates that the truck stop and retail center will generate 11,233 daily vehicle trips during peak hours from 7:19 a.m. to 8:55 p.m. Project plans call for two entrances on Ga. Highway 11, one right in/right out and one full access. A separate traffic impact study will be included as part of the application addressing concerns regarding current traffic operations and future conditions as a result of the travel center.
The developer submitted the project to the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission on Oct. 5 for review as a development of regional impact, which is defined as a large-scale development likely to have regional effects beyond the local government jurisdiction in which it is located. The review process is designed to improve communication between affected governments and to provide a means of determining and assessing potential impacts. Ultimately, Newton County will have the final say on the rezoning needed for the project to move forward.
There is no date set for the rezoning to come before the Board of Commissioners. Edwards said it could be before the end of the year, but he said it would more likely be next year.