COVINGTON - A go kart race track is being proposed for Newton County, but commissioners will first have to decide if they want to allow such a use in the zoning ordinance.
Commissioners held a work session Tuesday prior to their regular meeting to discuss a proposal by Dan Moore of Atlanta Gran Prix Karting. Moore would not publicly disclose the planned location for the facility, and there is not yet any documentation on file with the Newton County Department of Development Services. But during the meeting, it was stated numerous times that the track would be very near I-20 on property zoned general commercial and near the Almon Overlay in west Newton. Most adjacent properties are commercial with the exception of one nearby residence.
Commissioners in 2011 voted to amended the ordinance to exclude tracks for motorsports from allowed uses under commercial outdoor recreation facilities. Although officials said the amendment was part of an overhaul of the zoning ordinance as a whole, Donnie Clack, who had proposed locating a drag strip in Newton along I-20 and U.S. Hwy. 278, said he believed the move was designed to keep him out.
As a result of the amendment, there is currently no use in the ordinance that a go kart track would fit under, said Lynn Morgan with Development Services. Commissioners will have to decide if they want such a use allowed and if so, how to craft the language if they want to restrict vehicles based on horsepower and number of cylinders -- allowed vehicles could be limited to one cylinder, for example, which would keep them limited to go karts.
Commissioner Nancy Schulz expressed concerns about noise pollution and air quality, as well as having fences and buffers. But Commissioners Lanier Sims and John Douglas said the noise and air quality wouldn't be any worse than it is on the interstate.
"I don't want us to be so nitpicky and so attentive to splitting hairs that we run a prospective business out of the county," Douglas said.
Schulz reminded them of an earlier statement made by Jenny Carter with the County Attorney's Office that whatever they decide will not just be applicable to this property will but will have an impact countywide.
As far as this specific project, Schulz said the area is very close to the Almon Overlay and she wants to make sure it would not create drastic change there.
Sims said perhaps the ordinance could include a maximum decibel requirement to protect the overlay from noise.
The majority of commissioners expressed informal support of the project, and will discuss the ordinance amendment at a later date. Moore said after the meeting that he plans to cater to corporations and the facility would be used for team-building exercises as well as open to individuals. He said it would likely be summer before he actually submits an application.