County bans residential day cares
Hair salons also nixed

COVINGTON - County commissioners recently decided to prohibit day cares in residential districts.

An amendment proposed by the county planning staff to separate day cares by at least 500 feet to avoid an institutional appearance in residential areas was struck down by commissioners in favor of eliminating them altogether at the board's Nov. 18 meeting.

However, at the urging of Senior Planner Scott Sirotkin, commissioners agreed to allow day cares in mutli-family use areas, if a conditional-use permit is obtained.

"Allowing them to locate next to apartment buildings and townhomes is desirable from a traffic standpoint," Sirotkin told the board.

The Planning and Development Department has reported receiving numerous calls from residents and day care operators worried that existing businesses will be forced to shut down. However, the ordinance applies only to new day cares.

"An existing residential day care that has maintained their county and state licenses will not be affected by the amendment," Sirotkin said. "The amendment limits new day cares to commercial, office-institutional or multi-family zoning districts with a conditional-use permit."

In addition, hair salons and barber shops will no longer be allowed to open in private homes. The decision was made after the Newton County Board of Health sent a letter to the county stating that these uses are damaging to septic tanks because of the amount of water and chemicals used. Again, existing businesses will not be affected so long as the proper permits have been obtained.

"All commercial applications such as hair salons and beauty shops use enormous amounts of water, and residential onsite sewage management systems cannot handle the amount of water flows put into these systems. Also, these commercial applications introduce chemicals that are toxic to the environment, and can contaminate the ground water. These chemicals also kill the bacterial load in the septic tank which results in having no biodegration of the solids in the septic tank. This causes earlier failure of the septic system and contamination of the surface and ground water," said Byron H. Dunn Jr., environmental health specialist IV with Newton County Environmental Health.

Finally, commissioners passed an amendment to the nuisance abatement ordinance.

Previously, the ordinance could be applied only to buildings but it has now been expanded to apply to properties as well, so that issues like tall grass and weeds, improperly maintained swimming pools and erosion control can be addressed.

This will cover undeveloped properties that are not maintained or may be littered with debris.

The amendment also clarifies the process for nuisance abatement.

When the county receives a nuisance complaint, a letter will be sent to the property owner and mortgage owner giving 30 days to remedy the problem.

If the problem is not addressed, another letter will be sent warning that the county will pursue the matter in Magistrate Court and will file a lis pendens, or "suit pending," in Superior Court.

If the matter winds up in court, the county may gain authority to abate the nuisance and recover the costs, said Planning Director Marian Eisenberg.

"Now that we have so many abandoned properties because of the economic crisis, it's more important than ever to be able to deal with these properties," Eisenberg said.

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