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District 1, 3 candidates face off at forum

COVINGTON -- The two Republican candidates for the District 1 Board of Commissioners seat focused on the future of east Newton in the wake of the announcement that Baxter International will locate there at a forum held Thursday night.

John Douglas said he wants to keep the area rural and will fight to keep 2-acre minimum lot sizes.

"As long as I am a commissioner, I will not under any circumstances vote to rezone for apartments or condominiums in the first district," he said.

But opponent John Strauss said those statements are contrary to the development plan laid out for the district in the 2050 Plan, which designates compact communities at The Hub and in Stanton Springs, where growth will be focused.

"There's no way to have the 2050 Plan and say you're going to have a 2-acre lot minimum and not any multi-family housing," Strauss said, adding that the 2050 plan calls for mixed use developments, such as condos and lofts. He cited Clark's Grove in Covington as an example of a mixed use community. Strauss said the 2050 Plan protects the rural character of District 1 by concentrating growth to prevent urban sprawl.

Douglas said managing growth in the wake of the Baxter announcement will be like "walking a tight rope." While it's important to make sure the company has the resources it needs, it's also important to protect the county from uncontrolled growth, he said. Douglas also touted his experience, saying he knows the key players in Atlanta from his tenure in the state House and state Senate and he can call on them when an issue arises.

"This is not a time for an unknown quantity," he said.BOC, District 3Incumbent Nancy Schulz said the greatest challenge for her district is getting better paying jobs for residents and addressing the traffic on Salem Road. The county is currently putting together a Salem Road overlay to address growth in that area and funding for widening Salem Road is on the T-SPLOST referendum, but Schulz said if the referendum is not approved, the county will be at square one to find a source of funding.

Schulz said she's worked to get residents involved in discussions about issues facing the county by hosting several fireside chats each year.

The majority of growth has occurred in West Newton, and "those individuals need to be part of the solution, need to be encouraged to be part of the dialogue. I believe through my fireside chats, we've done that and we'll continue to do that."

Opponent Tony Flanagan said the challenges in the district are the high foreclosure rate, a lack of businesses and a lack of services for seniors and the disabled.

Flanagan said he's walked the district and found out that many constituents don't know their current commissioner.

"I'm transparent; I'm approachable. I want people in my community to know who I am," he said, adding that he will take suggestions from citizens and bring them back to the Board of Commissioners.

"I believe some of the changes and the ideas I have come from the citizens inside District 3 and will take us forward where we want to go in the future," he said, adding that his goals are to uphold the 2050 Plan, deal with job loss, and work to provide more services for the elderly, the disabled and veterans.

Schulz responded that during her first run for office she met 5,000 residents in the third district, acknowledging that she hasn't met all of the district's 20,000 residents, but "I sure am trying my best to get out there and meet every single one of them."

Flanagan alluded to a "hidden agenda" by the current commissioner but did not provide specifics when pressed.

"I'm running my campaign on integrity and I take that very seriously. I think that says it all, when I put on my brochures that integrity is the most important value for me. I would hope my actions over the last four years speak for themselves," Schulz said.

The forum took place at The Center Thursday night and was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and The Covington News. Only candidates with opposition in the July 31 primary were invited to speak.

Additional coverage of the forum will be provided in an upcoming edition of the Citizen.

Comments

henrystamm 2 years, 2 months ago

Typical Strauss. He could care less of our standard of living. He probably is benefiting from high development He should really run as a Democrat, he is as honest as one.

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comensense1234 2 years, 2 months ago

How dare you run for office with a criminal history. A good indicator of what will happen in the future is what happend in the past. You may change your wase but not your heart. Have You People have no shame. If you were applying for a private sector job you would be shown the front door. Guess its okay now to run for political office and once a criminal. Obama and his cronnies have really set the standard. If this is all the choice's we have, I'd rather throw my voter registration card in the garbage and move to another county or maybe another country. Whats wrong with you people.

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georgiaborn 2 years, 2 months ago

I smell a rat. I believe Strauss and his developer buddies are setting up the east side for the bulldoziers if he gets elected. He won't commit to 2 acre minimum lots, he won't commit to keeping out apartments and he won't commit to no new taxes. Can we afford to take that big a chance with Strauss? No way!

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Frustrated 2 years, 2 months ago

So Douglas has the contacts in Atlanta?What kind of issue would arise that he would need to contact his buddies in Atlanta? What does he expect them to do for Newton County? Douglas hasnt changed a bit. Thinks he is higher up on the totem pole than he really is. Sounds like another Mort in sheeps clothing to me.

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henrystamm 2 years, 2 months ago

At least Douglas wants to keep Newton Rural. That’s why most of us that moved here want it to stay that way. we know what a densely population will do and has done in the adjoining Counties including Rockdale.

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Frustrated 2 years, 2 months ago

thats the same reason I moved to Newton County too. And thanks to Mort and his buddies we now have the most congested area in the county along Salem Rd

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dawgs14 2 years, 2 months ago

Mr. Strauss is in favor of the 2050 plan because he wants to protect the rural and agricultural nature of D1 - you know...where he lives. Do your homework on the 2050 plan before spouting off at the mouth and you will clearly see that the plan protects D1.

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dawgs14 2 years, 2 months ago

If the BOC does not adopt a plan then it becomes a free-for-all in D1 when Baxter gets here and the economy rebounds. We saw it in the other districts prior to the economic downturn. One man can say he will never vote for anything on the board but it only takes 3 of 5. All are in favor of the 2050 plan and the limits it places on growth in D1. So by all means you scrap it and watch what happens. The 2050 plan protects us in the long run.

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farmboy 2 years, 2 months ago

Douglas only wants to be elect for his ego, this 5 try at 5 different offices in last 20 years. He says he is for the 2050 plan, has he read it? The plan calls for small dense areas of development to condense the population. This protects the farm land. Two acre minimum lots will eventually chop up the farm land and spread out the population in the District; therefore spreads out the infrastructure costing the county more to keep up, which equals higher taxes. The county is going to grow, so let’s control it, and preserve District 1. That is what Strauss wants. Strauss is for the 2050 plan that also calls for in some areas to have 5 acre minimums. Read the plan that some great leaders of Newton County worked years to develop. It really makes sense. Douglas says whatever he thinks people what to hear. He says he is for the 2050 plan so he does not offend the people that support it but he is against key elements of the plan. Will he please take a stand one way or the other? I want a commissioner that makes a decision that is best for the district and does not plays the fence. What did he get accomplish in the state senate for Newton County? Did he bring any big State dollars to the county? His experience political office did not accomplish much for the Newton County. His political experience is a negative since he has no major accomplishments for the people that elected him. Do you remember the Conyers speeding ticket scandal Douglas was in? Speeding is a crime isn’t it? I want someone as commissioner that has the best interest for district one and the Newton County. Strauss is definitively my choice.

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JohnStrauss 2 years, 2 months ago

I would ask that the voters (and perhaps, even the candidates, what a novel thought?) please Read the 2050 Plan. The following is from a summary page:

Create Communities:

Concentrate higher density development in 50% of the County using existing infrastructure and services to:

-- Create compact communities, adequate services and open space

-- Create multi-use walkable town centers in each community.

The Hub Junction IS one such community.

It is described as follows:

Compact Communities Zone

5 compact communities [one of which includes the Hub] with urban services including gravity based public sewer

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JohnStrauss 2 years, 2 months ago

Also, because the 2050 Plan is such a comprehensive plan, which focuses upon ALL aspects of our county and community, it is difficult to find selecy portions of the Plan that address development in isolation -- the Plan considers educational needs, water supply, sewerage, wastewater, infrastructure, travel times, etc. -- but the following is a "taste":

"For septic tanks to accommodate the amount of development projected for Newton County, thousands of 1-2 acre lots would be needed in the Rural and Conservation [Agricultural] Zones. Such unchecked development, even adhering to the current requirements for septic tanks on individual lots, would threaten to outstrip the collective capacity of the County's soils to drain sewage and dramatically reduce the County's tree canopy cover.

Compact communities, in both sewered and unsewered regions of Newton County, provide for an opportunity to preserve rural regions and protect valuable natural resources. For maximum effectiveness, regulatary measures should be paired with economic incentives. While some tools for compact growth are already available to Newton County, some adjustments and additions to the zoning ordinance would greatly bolster the County's ability to focus growth in appropriate areas."

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dennistay53 2 years, 2 months ago

Thank you for your comments John. Now please give us your idea other John. Ain't free speech GREAT. Let's get a debate going with all the candidates so we know where everyone stands. I want to know how each of you stand on protecting the River and streams in Newton County.

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Grandcanyon 2 years, 2 months ago

You all better be careful LaQuanda Brown Carpenter will sue you.  Just wait. 

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dennistay53 2 years, 2 months ago

Mr Strauss i'm going to leave an opinion on the 2050 plan and all other plans. please tell me where i am wrong. I don't believe any plan will work unless you have the right people and policies in place. I live in a rural area of the county on 10 acreas (zoned agr). Say someone or company with a lot of money and good lawyer comes to me to buy it to build apartments. He get's a varience, hangs a sign up for so long. Chances are that the board is going to give them the rezoning or varience. If they don't he will say lawsuit. Chance is that the board or county attorney will not fight it in court. So my opinion is that the only way it will work is to put the right people on the board who will appoint the right people on the zoning board and have the right county attorney to fight for the plan. Or you could do away with the zoning board and stick to the zoning in all cases.

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dennistay53 2 years, 2 months ago

I do envy my conservative friends in the 1st district. Either one of these gentlemen would be a plus for us in the 3rd district living in the North Newton rural part of the 3rd. In my opinion we have absolutely no representation for North Newton. You at least have 2 some what conservative candidates to choose from. Both had some very good ideas in the forum. If Mr Douglas is true to his remarks of being against tax increases the full 4 years this is a plus for homeowners. I would like to know how he voted when the state portion of the homestead exemption was discontinued a few years back because this was a huge tax increase for homeowners when they needed it the most. Mr Strauss carries himself well but i just don't know where he stands on millage rate increases yet. I do like his idea of a small chain of command no giveaway government.

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JohnStrauss 2 years, 1 month ago

To respond, I too believe in the protection of a water resources, and in fact, the 2050 Plan specifically addresses steps to provide for MORE protection of these resources (and other natural resources, such as trees). You can learn more about the Plan at CenterNewton.org. Also, I am on record stating emphatically that the 2050 Plan must be followed without exception. There will NOT be the type of dense development described by you in the Rural or Agricultural areas of the County, including District 1. The whole point of the Plan is to concentrate density in very limited areas so that the remaining areas can remain rural and agricultural, so that infrastructure expenses can be limited, so that sprawl can be prevented, so that our scenic corridors can be maintained, so that school construction and maintenance expenses can be reduced, and so that our natural resources can be protected. The Plan is an absolute work of art, and I really wish more people would actually go to the source -- the Plan itself. Finally, I have no intention of raising taxes.

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JohnStrauss 2 years, 1 month ago

I also should have specifically noted that the 2050 Plan has been whole-heartedly adopted by the County, every City, the School System, the Chamber, the Center for Preservation and Planning, the expert planning consultants retained to assist with the Plan, and the Water and Sewerage Authority. The Plan SPECIFICALLY concludes that continuation of the 1 and 2-acre minimums WILL result in urban sprawl -- 187,000.00 people in the rural and agricultural areas. However, under the Plan, that number is reduced to 48,000.00 in those areas.

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dennistay53 2 years, 1 month ago

Thank you for your response Mr Strauss. There are more citizens than people think that reads these forums. Many of us older citizens who don't get around much anymore have this as a way of keeping up with what is going on. Just your comments here tell me that you will represent a more open government if elected. I did read the 2050 plan as you suggested and for the most part i agree with it. My one concern is that i see no protection for the Yellow River as it runs from North Newton to Porterdale. I believe that if we go as plan with widening Crowell Rd ( which runs along the yellow river) and change to commercial along this corridor that it will have a very adverse effect on this river and associated wetlands. I believe there is still a chance to save this river. If we take out homes and trees and under growth on the river side and replace with business, concrete and asphalt it will not be good for this river. I just wish the 2050 plan had created a buffer along this river in their planning. I'm just afraid the financial benefit of a few will will out weigh the protection of this river and our future generation will pay. I intend to ask the state and federal government to look into what is planned here. Again thank you for your response. You have picked up votes by responding.

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