Social Circle approves annexation

COVINGTON - The Social Circle City Council approved this week the annexation of 334 acres. Most of the property in question is located in Newton County, though a small portion is within Walton County.

The property lies along the north side of Interstate 20, starting from U.S. Highway 278 by County Line Road, running southwest along U.S. 278 and I-20 to a point less than halfway to Old Social Circle Road.

A portion of the property in question was also part of a much larger annexation approved by Social Circle in 2006 that resulted in a bitter legal fight between the city, which is in Walton County, and Newton County.

But the annexation was approved at the council's regular Tuesday night meeting with little fanfare, Mayor Jim Burgess said.

The County Attorney's Office did not return calls seeking comment on why the county did not file an objection.

The property, which had several zoning classifications, was rezoned to AG-2. Burgess said property owners have not indicated if or how they intend to develop the property.

"I think they're going to leave it as agricultural. In the long term, they were wanting to be a part of the community. They said, 'We just like Social Circle, and we want to be a part of that city in the future as it grows,'" Burgess said. "We've got a great school system and we're anticipating a lot of growth to the south. Now's a good time to come on into the city."

About 25 percent of the property along eastern U.S. 278, owned by J. Donnie Clack of Little River Ventures LLC, was also included in the previous annexation request.

Clack owns about 320 acres of the property. The remaining owners are Richard T. Hawk; Jeff Bell and Joe Harrison of Oconee Ventures LLC; Mark Thomson of Newton Walton Properties; Thomas Earnest III; and Patricia W. Clayton.

In other news, the council approved a liquor-by-the-drink referendum to be voted on in March.

Burgess has said the city's beer and wine ordinance needs to be expanded to draw more people and restaurants to the downtown area.

"Our interest is in trying to get upscale restaurants here. ... We've had some nice restaurants, upscale restaurants, interested in coming here, but one condition is that they be able to serve alcohol, liquor and mixed drinks," he said.

Package stores would not be allowed under the new ordinance, Burgess said.

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