Cook Road cleanup site owned by candidate

COVINGTON - The cleanup of a property on Cook Road where garbage and household junk has accumulated for years is nearly complete.

Property records show the site, located at 795 Cook Road, is owned by Hubert White, a Democratic candidate for county commission chairman. White has denied ownership, though his business, White Enterprises, was issued a notice to clean up the property and court documents show the property was purchased by Gum Creek Villages LLC in March of this year. The address for Gum Creek LLC was listed as 4118 Herring St., the same address for White Enterprises, and White signed the loan agreement.

When contacted by the Citizen about the property, White insisted he was not the owner. He said Community Bank owns the property and he is managing the cleanup for the bank.

"I didn't get the citation," he said. "I'm not the culprit. I'm the hero because they trust me to do it."

A representative from the bank said he was not familiar with the property in question, but added, "The bank owns everything until it's paid off."

According to court documents, Community Bank is financing a loan on the property.

White previously owned the property, and sold it to GDG Cook LLC several years ago. A deed on file in the Newton County Superior Court Clerk's Office shows that in March 2008, Gum Creek Villages assumed responsibility for the loan previously taken out by GDG.

According to Newton County Planning and Development records, obtained through an Open Records request, a resident filed a complaint about the property on March 26, stating there were tires and other junk piled on the property.

On March 31, the county sent a letter to Hunter Hall with GDG Cook LLC notifying him that the property was in violation of the county litter control and solid waste ordinance.

In the letter, a code enforcement officer indicated he had spoken with Hall about the site in 2007, but "had just set back and waited, not putting pressure on you or your company to clean this up. Our department has received some more complaints about this location, and we need you to act on getting this area cleaned up."

The officer said at least half of the 38-acre tract must be cleaned up within 30 days.

On April 17, the county received a call from Hall stating Hubert White was now the property owner. Another check on the property on May 30 indicated it was still not in compliance with the ordinance.

On June 9, the county issued a courtesy notice to Geoff Griffith with White Enterprises allowing 14 days to clean up the property, which contained everything from tires and mattresses to old shoes and children's toys. The notice stated that a citation would be issued if the cleanup was not completed.

A resident in the area said the junk has been there for at least two years and several complaints have been made to the county.

"I think it's been there for a long time," agreed Planning and Development Director Marian Eisenberg, but added she believed the complaint filed in March was the first written complaint the county has received. "We typically reserve our resources for responding to complaints."

Eisenberg said as far as the county knows, White is the property owner.

It's not clear how the junk actually got there in the first place, however.

An abandoned house, only partially standing now, was once occupied by a couple who White said likely dumped the stuff.

A nearby resident said cleanup was under way by June 15.

White said Friday that at least 12 containers of trash had been removed so far, and that some tires were still remaining on the property but were soon to be removed as well.

White said he initially purchased the property and intended to use it to extend a Ga. Highway 142 loop around the county, at the request of county officials.

White did not return calls by press time Monday to address court records indicating he is the property owner.

Representatives with GDG Cook also did not return calls.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.