COVINGTON — A zoning amendment that would prohibit any residential development in Stanton Springs was approved by the Newton County Board of Commissioners earlier this month.
According to Newton County Development Services Director Judy Johnson, the amendment addresses the business park as a whole and has already been adopted by Walton and Morgan counties, which also have property in the development.
“The goal of the amendment is to have all the language be as consistent as possible (among the three counties) so that when development comes in … we all are regulating and requiring the same items,” said Johnson.
Johnson told commissioners at their Sept. 3 meeting that Stanton Springs will now be known as Stanton Springs Business Park and will be divided into two tiers for purposes of development. One tier includes the land along Shire Parkway within the business park, where Takeda is located and where the Facebook data center is under construction. The second tier includes land along U.S. Highway 278 where developments such as convenience stores, restaurants and hotels will be allowed. Those uses would not be allowed along Shire Parkway, Johnson said.
District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards sought clarification on the prohibition of residential development in the park.
“So the implementation of this zoning change effectively eliminates any chance of any residential buildout in the community,” he said.
“Yes,” replied Johnson. “It is no longer an allowed use at all.”
Commissioners approved the zoning change unanimously.
In late 2015 and early 2016, the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton Counties, which owns property in Stanton Springs, had considered the sale of about 536 acres at a price tag of $3.7 million to a developer who planned to build 180 single-family homes on the property. The sale was contingent on the developers gaining approval for changes to the Stanton Springs land use plan and zoning in Newton County.
The Newton County Planning Commission unanimously recommended denial of the changes, and two members of the JDA board resigned in protest over elements of the proposed deal. The developer ultimately asked that the project be withdrawn from consideration.
At the time the JDA was in need of $2.6 million to pay the balance on a loan that funded construction of Shire Parkway. Without the proceeds from the land sale, the JDA asked each of the four counties involved to pass a resolution pledging future property tax receipts from Shire (then Baxalta) to pay off the loan balance. All four counties agreed to the resolution, but the JDA was ultimately able to pay off the debt with proceeds from the sale of land to Facebook in 2018.