Massive development could affect Morgan

Sarah Wibell News

Plans for Covington Town Center, an extensive development along Alcovy Road and City Pond Road in Covington, are moving forward on a 179.5-acre mixed-use project consisting of 78 acres of rental retail space, 770,470 square feet for restaurants, 264,000 square feet of office space, 52,500 square feet for entertainment, roughly 400 residential units on 16 acres, 5.2 acres for hotels, and 18.6 acres of greenspace. A developer from Foxfield Co., located in Bluffton, S.C., is heading the project that broke ground in January.

Build-out is expected to take five years to complete and may impact Morgan County.

Morgan County Manager Adam Mestres stated, “From the county perspective, any type of growth that would have a potential regional impact on the Morgan County community is something we want to explore, both the positives and potential pitfalls. Regional growth is always going to have some type of draw on our existing services.”

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported that the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission (NEGRC) is already considering how local infrastructure and traffic will be affected by this Development of Regional Impact (DRI).

DRIs are defined by the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission as “large-scale developments that are likely to have regional effects beyond the local government jurisdiction in which they are located.

The Georgia Planning Act of 1989 authorized the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to establish procedures for review of these large-scale projects.

These procedures are designed to improve communication among affected governments and to provide a means of revealing and assessing potential impacts of large-scale developments before conflicts relating to them arise.

At the same time, local government autonomy is preserved since the host government maintains the authority to make the final decisions as to whether a proposed development will or will not go forward.”

The Atlanta Business Chronicle noted that the maximum density for a location is typically utilized in a DRI.

However, that does not guarantee the actual development will reach that scale.

Newton County Vice President of Economic Development Dave Bernd commented, “Right now, we’re losing almost $700 million of retail taxes out of Newton County. What we are trying to do is to not lose those dollars to other counties—most of them aren’t going to Morgan County, they are going to Mall of Georgia, McDonough, or Atlanta proper. We’re trying to capture as many of the retail dollars we are losing out of the county back into the county.”

Covington Town Center is being built near the site for Three Ring Studios, which will benefit the mixed-use project.

“Facebook, Shire, and Three Ring Studios are going to have a much larger impact in infrastructure and people moving to the area than the Covington Town Center, because that is 26 acres of retail space, 30 more acres of office and hotel space, and about 20 acres of possibly multi-family housing,” Bernd explained.

“The infrastructure won’t be in the ground until the end of this year. The offices will probably go vertical immediately because those are already contracted out. Then the multi-family can come up.

“The multi-family development is less than a third of the site [and targets] the Facebook and Shire employees that are being hired. Three Ring Studios, by this time next year, could be around 3,300 employees; all are in the 24-34-year old age group that aren’t looking to buy homes right now. Hopefully, what we are doing will actually help the situation and congestion, especially on Interstate 20, because if we don’t then we’re going to clog up I-20 because the employees will be driving into work from other areas.”

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