Industrial park could have big impact
Proposed project might bring more than 600 jobs

COVINGTON - An industrial park proposed for Hazelbrand Road is a big project that will generate some big numbers, if developed as planned.

The conceptual plan for the development calls for 2.5 million square feet of industrial space at full buildout. Based on that number, more than 600 new jobs could be generated by the project. More traffic, in the amount of 14,000 additional vehicle trips per day, will also be generated.

By 2019, if the park is at full capacity, its value will be $125 million and it will generate an estimated $1.875 million annually in property tax revenue.

The park is planned for 214.8 acres along Hazelbrand Road, east of the city limits of the city of Covington, about one mile from Home Depot. The property is bisected by Hazelbrand, leaving about 150 acres on one side of the road and about 70 on the other.

Property owners William G. Gainer, J.S. Gainer and Essie Greer are seeking annexation into the city of Covington and a rezoning from county agricultural to city heavy industrial.

The project has been identified as a development of regional impact and is under review by the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center.

"The owner does not plan to develop the property," said Jerry Silvio, president of Silvio Development Company, who was hired to find developers and potential users for the site. "The owner will prepare, through the rezoning process, to attract quality development to bring the property to market."

It will likely be up to the future developer to attract users, but, "If a large user like General Mills or SKC comes along, the property is suitable for the owner to subdivide and sell part of it," he added.

Silvio said annexation is preferred to get better water and sewer service and fire protection. He acknowledged that the fact there are no impact fees to pay in the city is also a benefit, but said it's not the most important factor.

Though the park will create more traffic, Silvio said the benefits will be worth it, and he said the new traffic would be minor compared to what a retail development would generate.

A traffic study accompanying the information submitted for the DRI review recommends a signalized intersection to serve the main access road.

Ongoing improvements to Ga. Highway 142 and I-20 will also help with congestion, Silvio said.

"This will result in jobs and capital investment; therefore, it's good for the community," he said, pointing out that industry "pays more taxes than it consumes in services."

Silvio said industry consumes about 66 cents of every tax dollar it generates, compared to residential development, which consumes about $1.50 in services for every $1 it generates.

Though other industrial developments such as Stanton Springs, the four-county industrial park in eastern Newton County, have yet to get commitments from users, Silvio said he's confident there's a market for industry in Covington.

"This is a growing market. It's a good community with progressive, good leadership. All these are things industry looks for," he said.

Jim Moneyhun, project administrator with the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center, said the DRI review has generated more public comment than usual because the park is located in an environmentally sensitive area. About 18 comments had been received by the close of public comments on Sept. 19, he said.

Cornish Creek and an unnamed tributary of the Alcovy River are located on the site, along with wetlands, and the property is adjacent to the Georgia Wildlife Federation.

The applicant is proposing that on-site detention will not be needed, as all stormwater will be directed to the Alcovy River flood plain, according the DRI information.

"There is no impact on waterways because of today's development standards," Silvio said.

The RDC will determine if the project is in the best interest of the region and, therefore, the state and report back to the city of Covington within 35 days, Moneyhun said. The findings could be released as early as today, he said.

The RDC's recommendations are not binding, leaving it up to the local government to deny or approve the project. The petition must go through the typical rezoning process, including public hearings, before the Covington Planning Commission and the City Council, which has final approval.

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