County approves Almon Overlay District

COVINGTON -- County commissioners approved the Almon/Crowell Overlay District on Tuesday night after a year of work by planning staff and property owners.

The overlay district was formed at the request of several large landowners in the area who asked that higher quality development standards be put in place to regulate future growth.

More than 900 property owners in the corridor area were invited to a public meeting last week -- about 60 attended.

"It seemed to be generally well-received. Nobody threw tomatoes at me," Planning Director Marian Eisenberg told the board.

Property owner Lou Passarella said the adoption of the overlay fulfills the dreams of many.

"A lot of property owners have wanted this corridor for many years," he said. "Now that we've got this in place, we'll try to do something with it."

Commissioner Nancy Schulz said residents have asked "to keep the momentum going ... to do something with this ordinance and not let it sit on the shelf but to turn this into a working document."

The overlay is divided into three tiers: residential, mixed use and a town center that would be located in the Almon community.

Among the standards for new residential developments would be requirements for enhanced common areas, or centrally located gathering spots that could range from pocket parks, or passive greenspace, to swim/tennis clubs. Developers would be required to install sidewalks, street trees and other landscaping inside the development as well as on the roads leading into the development.

Vinyl or aluminum siding would be prohibited, as would manufactured homes. Sodded yards with irrigation systems would be required. Brick or stone skirting would be required around the foundation of homes, with chimneys to be veneered in stone, brick or fiber cement siding.

In addition, homes would be required to meet certain energy efficiency requirements.

Multi-family homes would be allowed in mixed-use districts but not in the form of apartment complexes -- instead, townhomes separated by a firewall would be allowed. In the town center, some buildings could have residences on the second and third floors and businesses on the first floor.

Existing structures would be grandfathered in and only required to comply with the new standards if substantial changes are made to the footprint of the building, such as adding square footage. Routine maintenance such as painting or replacing the roof of a home would not merit compliance, according to Eisenberg.

Structures that are rebuilt due to destruction by fire or act of God would not be required to meet the standards either, she said.

Residential density ranges from 3.5 single-family units per acre on 6,000 square foot lots to up to 10 townhouses and 20 multi-family units per acre. Density varies depending on the tier where the property is located.

Chairman Kathy Morgan has said the Almon community is one of five in Newton County selected as development nodes where future development will likely be concentrated as part of county's 2050 build-out plan. This overlay will likely be used as a template for others, she said.

To read the ordinance and see a map of the district, visit www.co.newton.ga.us.