Salem Overlay tabled

COVINGTON — The Board of Commissioners recently tabled a vote on the proposed Salem Overlay, based on public feedback.

“Based on the comments we’ve heard from the public, we felt it was in the interest of the strength of this overlay that we listen to what the constituents of this area have to say and go back to the drawing table and make a stronger ordinance,” said Commissioner Nancy Schulz at the board’s Dec. 18 meeting.

The board agreed to table the matter through March and to extend the agreement with the Collaborative Firm LLC, the county’s consultant for the project.

The contract with the Collaborative Firm expired on Dec. 18. The firm will not charge the county for the balance of the month of December and will reduce its rate by about $880 per month, to $4,175 per month, for the remaining three months. Funding in the amount of $60,000 was set aside for the project, and thus far, around $50,400 has been spent.

During a follow up interview, Schulz said that a public meeting on Dec. 17 revealed the county needs to better educate the public about the overlay and how it fits in with the 2050 Plan. She said citizens had questions about what an overlay is and if it meant their property was being annexed into Rockdale County.

“Commissioner (Lanier) Sims and I both realized some specifics needed to be addressed to make a better overlay, but in general, the public needed to have more time,” she said.

Schulz said public participation in the meeting was “incredible” with the board room in the Historic Courthouse at standing room only.

“When you have that much participation from the public you want to make sure when the final document comes out that the public fully understands and fully supports it,” she said.

Schulz said it’s clear that more public education and input are needed, although there have been stakeholder meetings and a total of three public sessions.

The proposed overlay runs along Salem Road south of the Rockdale line down to Ga. Highway 81. The ordinance as currently written states that the purpose of the overlay is to encourage clusters of close knit growth to keep a “small town charm;” focus development around the intersection of Salem and Brown Bridge roads, as envisioned by the 2050 Plan and Newton County Comprehensive Plan; and to set the stage for preserving farmland and open space elsewhere in the county. Salem is one of five compact communities proposed in the county’s 2050 Plan.

The overlay is divided into three tiers: Tier 1 would be mostly residential with some neighborhood commercial uses allowed; Tier 2 would be mixed use with lighter commercial uses; and Tier 3 would be mixed use with both commercial and residential. There would also be a historic district to protect historic areas such as Salem Campground.

Several meetings have been held with stakeholders and the general public regarding the overlay. Public input included a desire to preserve the historic campground and protect greenspace; a focus on mixed-use development; interconnectivity such as bike trails and sidewalks; reasonable signage; and aesthetic development.

The ordinance also includes regulations on building facades, including consistent architectural features, building materials and rooflines on buildings facing a public street.

Gas pumps and drive-thrus would be required to be located to the back or side versus between the building and street.

For residential developments, consistent architectural features, building materials and rooflines must also be consistent. Residential entryways must be covered with a porch or other feature. Garages will not be allowed to face public streets.

Residential and non-residential areas will be required to have open space and congregating areas such as paths, ponds, plazas and fountains. Existing structures will not be subject to the requirements, only new development. Maintenance of existing buildings, such as repainting, also would not trigger the overlay standards.

The public can find more detailed information at www.salemoverlay.wordpress.com.


LoFlyer 2 years, 9 months ago

I read through the overlay at the link of: Salem Overlay District Draft for Board of Commissioners Meeting (12-18-12) It appears that the overlay was produced with the best of intentions, misplaced ideas that have little value in the area or to the citizens, Sidewalks required, and gas-pumps to be placed behind buildings. No vinyl siding allowed. The overlays list of what is not allowed in the Salem overlay area sounds really trendy, and virtually destines the area to be a financial dessert with the added costs and outlays for unnecessary accessories. I don't see one name signed to the Salem road overlay. If the Salem overlay is the best our universities can produce, then I suggest the citizens ponder there reliance on the upper level education system. The writers avoided the major concern of the citizens in increasing traffic flow and decreasing traffic congestion in the Salem corridor. The commissioners made the best choice of the issue by tabling the matter. When anyone cares to sign their name to this document, I might reconsider the issue. As the document stands today, it is near worthless. Best regards, KC


dennistay53 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm glad to see that Commissioner Schulz shows the concern of listening to the citizens. I see some hope for the board in 2013 if they continue to listen to the citizens and treat the county attorney as ONLY an advisor. I hope they will go back and look at how flawed the Almon overlay is as well.


nc333 2 years, 9 months ago

I recently took a drive through Gwinnett County to visit a longtime friend. It had been years since I'd driven the Hwy. 81 and 20, Sugarloaf Pkwy. to Lawrenceville route and the experience was absolutely depressing. Commercial development was spread along the entire route with only a few holdout open areas haphazardly remaining. Residents in the Salem Road area may want to take a drive along Gwinnett's Scenic Hwy. or follow the route I did before rejecting the Salem overlay. Adhering to the 2050 plan is the key to keeping us from being the next Gwinnett County where outdated commercial areas are left abandoned for the newer version down the road and any sense of place is long gone.


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