COVINGTON -- Once again, a deadlocked City Council forced Mayor Kim Carter to cast the tie-breaking vote to annex into city limits and rezone 158 acres owned by the Industrial Development Authority.
The final of two required readings was approved Monday night, with Councilmen Mike Whatley, Chris Smith and Keith Dalton in favor and Councilwomen Janet Goodman, Hawnethia Williams and Ocie Franklin opposed.
The final vote had been tabled at the Dec. 20 meeting at Carter's request because Dalton was absent due to illness. She asked the council to table it in the interest of fairness because of the sensitivity of the issue. Had a vote been taken, based on the outcome at the first reading, the petition would have failed by a vote of 3-2 in Dalton's absence.
Williams voted against tabling the petition and said Monday that a vote should not have been delayed due to one council member's absence.
"We should have voted on this at the Dec. 20 meeting because we had a quorum," Williams said.
While Carter said she empathized with homeowners who have spoken in opposition, she said she cast her vote "in the interest of economic development."
The property fronts Ga. Highway 142, City Pond Road and Airport Road. It was purchased to recruit industry to the area. The land has been rezoned from county R-3 (residential) and AR (agricultural residential), to city M-2 (heavy industrial).
The IDA purchased the property in 2004, with city and county backing, for the purpose of recruiting industry, IDA attorney Frank Turner Jr. previously said.
In six years, only one significant prospect has expressed interest, and that may be because the property was not adequately zoned, Turner said. The state places priority on property that is properly zoned and publicly owned, he said. Further, both the city and county future land use maps show the area as industrial.
At least 90 residents signed a petition in opposition to the petition that was presented to the Covington Planning Commission in November. Jossie Cook, a 32-year resident of City Pond Road, said she's upset she and her neighbors weren't notified early on about plans for that area. Perhaps they could have sold their homes before the housing market crashed, she said.
"When they plan on upsetting other people's lives, when they start planning, they should at least let them know. I wouldn't be so upset if I had known six years ago when I had a chance to sell my house and get out ... common courtesy would have been appreciated," she said, adding that she and her neighbors first heard about plans for the property when they received notice in October of an upcoming Planning Commission meeting. Cook said she and her neighbors offered to sell their properties to the IDA but were turned down.
The IDA has voluntarily attached protective covenants, which prohibit uses that create a nuisance via excess noise, odor or pollution, on the property. It has also agreed to increase buffers from 25 to 50 feet where the property abuts residential areas.