COVINGTON -- Several landowners along Crowell Road in Newton County are banding together to market their residential properties as potential commercial, taking advantage of a perfect storm of events that make that land a prime target for new development.
A total of eight property owners with nearly 37 acres of land stretching from the intersection of Crowell and Brown Bridge roads to the Elks Lodge have signs up advertising their property for sale as potential commercial.
Blake Glover with The Glover Group of Keller Williams Realty represents the property owners. The asking price is $100,000 an acre, he said, but commercial developers are being solicited to make an offer.
Glover said there are several other property owners along the road who have not officially committed but are interested in potentially selling. The properties are listed individually but are being marketed as a group to make it more attractive to commercial buyers.
The reason? There are a few. Two years ago, county commissioners passed the Almon Overlay, a development node divided into three zoning tiers: residential, mixed use and a town center located in the Almon community. The properties in question along Crowell Road are included in Tier 2 of the Almon Overlay and as such, under their current residential zoning, can have uses allowed in the Neighborhood Commercial district, according to Scott Sirotkin, director of the Newton County Department of Development Services. To do mixed use development the properties would have to be rezoned to the mixed use district.
Also, there are plans to widen Crowell Road to four lanes, slicing a chunk off the residents' property, and a new high school is under construction there, which will make the road even busier. Finally, the corridor is part of an area where liquor by the drink, if county commissioners opt to have a referendum and it's approved by voters, could be sold.
Glover said the initial hope was to attract a strip mall with a big box anchor store like Target. But Target representatives have indicated they aren't interested in expanding to this area for at least five years, he said. After studying the overlay, town homes or condominiums might be more appropriate, he said, though the property owners are open to a variety of developments.
Kim Young has lived on Crowell Road for nearly 25 years, right across from The Oaks Course. She and her mother own almost 10 acres combined. Young initiated the group marketing strategy. Ever since a subdivision went up behind her property 10 years ago, Young said her idyllic rural life has been disrupted and she's ready to get out.
"The change has not been favorable. It's a good thing for Newton County but it's not going to be a good thing for the owners," she said.
Young said the site would be a prime location for a grocery store, as there isn't one from Almon to the Bypass.
"I think it would benefit anybody down the Bypass. Unless you go all the way down to Ingles on Highway 278 or turn off to go to Walmart (at Salem and Brown Bridge), there's nothing," she said.
Harry and Gloria Plunkett moved to Crowell Road six years ago to get away from the hubbub in neighboring Rockdale County. But the growth followed them, and now they're looking to sell and head further east to a more rural setting.
If not for the overlay and road widening plans, the Plunketts would stay right where they are. "We would not necessarily be selling," said Harry Plunkett. "We're pretty happy here. With the commercialization of it and the additional traffic coming down Crowell that we're going to incur with the school at the other end ... it takes anywhere from three to five minutes to get out of our driveway to get onto Crowell Road as it is."
But Plunkett isn't opposed to the overlay.
"It makes sense. There's no question about it, there's a lot of opportunity for business. We've got the school ... but I just don't see it (happening) without a six-lane highway. It'll just be traffic jam," he said.
The Almon Overlay is one of five districts that have been targeted by county officials as development nodes where future development will likely be concentrated. Stanton Springs, the Brick Store community, Salem Road and a portion of U.S. Highway 278 are the others.