Newton to benefit from ARC program

COVINGTON - Newton County is one of nine communities selected by the Atlanta Regional Commission to benefit from its Community Choices program.

The county will receive free technical assistance from ARC staff in drafting a mixed-use ordinance. The ordinance would meet a goal of the Livable Centers Initiative study, which focused on ways to improve the U.S. Highway 278 corridor, as well as the comprehensive land use plan.

"We will be working on the development of a mixed-use ordinance that would be applicable to the unincorporated portion of the Livable Centers Initiative study area along Highway 278. A mixed-use ordinance would allow different kinds of uses, often retail and residential, to be 'mixed' or located in the same buildings or developments, something that is not typically allowed in traditional zoning," senior planner Scott Sirotkin said. "Mixed-use zoning is an important tool in encouraging development that has a 'small-town' feel. It is our hope that we will be able to use the product of this effort as a template for applying mixed-use zoning to other appropriate areas of the county," such as in development nodes identified on the Future Land Use Map, he said.

The ARC received a record 28 applications for this year's program, according to an ARC spokesman.

According to Dan Reuter, land use chief for ARC, Newton County was selected because it was part of the LCI.

"Community Choices is a program to help communities, once they've done the LCI plan, with implementation," Reuter said. "We do things that are pretty small projects like help with rewriting a code or an overlay district."

The goal of Community Choices is to assist local governments with making good, long-term decisions about where, when and how they should grow in order to achieve the unique and individual vision of each community.

ARC staff will work to develop the ordinance with a local steering committee that will include representatives from The Center for Community Preservation and Planning; Smart Growth Newton County; The Newton County Home Builders Association; developers and commissioners.

The general public will also have an opportunity to give input, Sirotkin said, adding that the task would take close to a year to complete.

Other communities chosen for the program are Cobb, Henry and DeKalb counties and the cities of Fayetteville, Avondale Estates, Roswell, Alpharetta and Auburn.

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