Two meetings planned on Salem Overlay

COVINGTON — Two more public meetings are being held on the Salem Road Overlay.

The meetings will take place at 7 p.m. Jan. 31 and Feb. 21 at Gateway Community Church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road. Anyone who owns property or lives in the Salem community, or anyone with an interest in the area may benefit from coming to the meetings, said Scott Sirotkin, director of the Department of Development Services.

“Right now the plan is to give a brief overview of the overlay, discuss any changes that we’ve looked at since last month, and then have the bulk of the time be for comments and questions from the public,” he said.

“We will have a panel of folks at the meeting who will answer questions, discuss ideas and work with the public to try and create the best possible ordinance,” he added.

Commissioner Nancy Schulz said there will be some explanation of what an overlay is and the intent of the overlay, which she said is “helping to preserve the integrity of the area.”

Schulz said there was a lot of confusion during a public meeting in December from the public on what the overlay means and how it is used as a zoning tool; some residents even thought they were being annexed into Rockdale County, which is not the case.

Schulz said current residents do not have to change anything; the intent of the ordinance is to make sure future development is held to a higher standard, she said.

The overlay is tentatively scheduled for a hearing before the BOC on March 15.

In December, the BOC tabled the Salem Overly ordinance. At the time, Schulz said more public education was needed.

“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,” she said.

The board agreed to extend the agreement with the Collaborative Firm LLC, the county’s consultant for the project.

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