Salem Overlay nears vote

COVINGTON -- Commissioners heard a description of the proposed Salem Overlay at a work session Monday night. The ordinance will go before the Planning Commission on Nov. 27 and before the Board of Commissioners on Dec. 18.

The overlay runs along Salem Road south of the Rockdale line down to Ga. Hwy. 81. The ordinance 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 bikes and sidewalks; reasonable signage; and aesthetic development, said Alex Fite-Wassilak, urban designer with the Collaborative Firm LLC, the county's consultant for the project.

The ordinance will require that all streets inside the overlay be public to prevent developers from creating substandard streets, Fite-Wassilak said. Sidewalks will be required on both sides of all streets and traffic signals required where curb cuts or new roads connect to Salem and Brown Bridge roads.

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 porches or other features. 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.

Commissioner Mort Ewing expressed concern that the overlay does not take into account the widening of Salem Road, or at least specifically the number of lanes the road will be widened.

"It appears to me in order to have a successful overlay, we must include the alignment of the road, whether it's going to be two lanes, four lanes or six lanes," he said.

Fite-Wassilak indicated the Georgia Department of Transportation has not yet clarified that.

"In an ideal world, we would note that from the beginning," Fite-Wassilak said. "Unfortunately with the timing of this project and the way this project has been handled by the DOT, this has turned into an unideal situation."


Billy 2 years, 7 months ago

Salem Road needs to be at least four lanes all the way to GA Hwy 81. The people that live there of course will complain, but at this point traffic needs are just as important if not more so. Building the WalMart there was a mistake. Not sure why another one was needed; there are already two in the area, both near the freeway in high traffic areas where there are already widened roads to accomodate higher traffic. But, as it is, they built it and Newton county gov't allowed it, so Salem Road, which was already overburdened, needs to be widened. Again, I can understand locals wanting to "preserve that hometown feel," but this an arterial road and like 138, needs to be widened to reflect that fact...


Frustrated 2 years, 7 months ago

Billy I agree with you. Salem Rd does need to be widened to accomodate the traffic now. A few years back the Commissioners rubber stamped all subdivivsion developments that came before them in part because the person developing the subdivision were friends with some of the commissioners. They showed no concern for the area and what might hapen in the future. The Walmart got approved because one commissioner owned the land where it now sits and against the objections of the majority of the people living in the area. We must now live with their bad decisions.


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