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Potential city residents can talk about annexation

POSTED: November 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Property owners affected by a possible mass annexation into the Gainesville city limits will have a chance to ask questions about becoming city residents Monday.

In a move officials have been discussing for years, the city sent 561 letters last week to owners of properties that have become "islands" within the city limits, notifying them that soon, they could be city residents.

The letters are part of a planned mass annexation of about 568 "islands" of unincorporated county property within Gainesville’s city limits. State law allows cities to annex these islands without the owner’s consent, but the City Council has yet to decide whether to bring them into the city limits.

The letters the city sent to property owners last week detailed the benefits of becoming a city resident — reduced water and sewer rates, fire and police protection, twice weekly garbage collection and discounts on programs the city’s Parks and Recreation Department offers.

The letter also approached the cost the annexation will have to new city residents — an increase in property tax payments.

A resident of unincorporated Hall County owning a home with an appraised value of $150,000 would see an increase of about $500 on his property tax bill, according to Rusty Ligon, planning director for the city.

The massive annexation would add approximately $167,850 in property tax revenue to the city government and additional $475,841 to the school system.

But Gainesville City Manager Bryan Shuler has said the main focus of the annexation is not revenue. Rather, it is to eliminate confusion when it comes to delivering local services such as dispatching law enforcement or firefighters in an emergency.

Along with the revenues, the annexations would mean increased costs for the city.

If the City Council approves the mass annexation, city departments will have to brace for an increased service area as all but about 100 of the properties in question are residential properties.

At Monday’s meeting, property owners will be able to speak with representatives from various city departments who can answer specific questions about the services they provide, Shuler said.

Shuler said he will briefly explain the annexation process, and allow property owners to ask questions about city services.

Another information meeting will follow on Nov. 17 at the Gainesville Civic Center. The Planning and Appeals Board and the Gainesville City Council both are scheduled to start public hearings and vote on the annexation on Dec. 2, Ligon said.

If the council approves, the annexations will be final at the end of the calendar year.



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