Covington wants 7 of 13 members on 2050 citizens panel

COVINGTON — The Covington City Council wants to increase its voice in 2050 Plan deliberations by sevenfold.

As part of recent discussions, sometimes heated, of Newton County’s 2050 Plan, a proposal arose to establish a 13-member citizens panel to thoroughly investigate the matter. The proposal called for one representative from each municipality in the county in addition to representatives from County Commission districts, the County Commission chairman, the Water and Sewerage Authority and the Board of Education.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Ronnie Johnston suggested, and the council unanimously agreed, that he would present a request to the 2050 planners to give Covington seven of the panel’s 13 members.

“I think we owe it to our citizens,” Johnston said. “This (the 2050 Plan) is no small thing. It’s time to deliver the message that the city of Covington wants to be a big player.”

During the discussion, council member Chris Smith noted that Covington is “funding as much research for the 2050 Plan as the county is” and deserves significant representation on the citizens panel.

Members agreed that the 2050 Plan presents some major issues that impact the city and county, such as the transferable development rights proposal. Under that proposal, developers in more restricted zoning areas of the county could purchase development rights from property owners in less restricted areas to expand their development projects. TDR sellers would then be barred from developing the property represented by the TDR.

“TDR – will it work?” Johnston asked during the discussion. “That is the type of issue that this panel must address.”

The citizens panel will review the proposed baseline ordinances of the 2050 Plan. County Commission Chairman Keith Ellis previously has stated that the objective of the panel is to search for common ground in the controversial 2050 Plan proposal.

The citizens panel’s 13-member constituency was established by a work group consisting of local officials from across the county.

At press time Johnston had not presented the council’s request to Ellis.

“I need to talk with the commissioners to get their views and it would be inappropriate to make further comment at this time,” Ellis said in a telephone interview.