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Man says Gainesville annex will ruin his business

POSTED: November 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Shane Reidling owns a trailer park on McConnell Drive that may be annexed into city limits. Reidling says the annexation would ultimately cause him to lose business.

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Shane Reidling is no longer as worried about the extra $1,300 he will have to pay in property taxes if Gainesville annexes his two-acre mobile home park next month.

Now, Reidling says he is more concerned that the annexation, part of a massive effort to get rid of unincorporated county islands within the city limits, will threaten his ability to provide low-income housing to his tenants.

Under Gainesville’s zoning regulations, Reidling’s mobile home park is a nonconforming use of property; the city does not allow mobile homes.

If the City Council decides to annex 561 tracts of land that have become "islands" of unincorporated Hall County surrounded by the Gainesville city limits, it will be bringing approximately 86 mobile homes — nonconforming uses — into the city limits, according to the city’s planning director Rusty Ligon.

Although Reidling’s mobile home park would be in the city limits, the mobile homes could stay. Reidling just would not be able to add more mobile homes after the annexation.

Under the city’s zoning rules, Reidling could make small — less than 60 percent of the value of the home — repairs to those mobile homes if his property is annexed.

Replacement or repairs that are worth more than 60 percent of the value of the existing trailer are out of the question, however.

Therein lies the problem for Reidling, who says he had plans to replace a few of the older mobile homes in the park he owns on McConnell Drive.

Reidling says he no longer minds paying city taxes, because he understands that since his property is surrounded by Gainesville’s city limits that he benefits from city services.

Not being able to replace older mobile homes will keep Reidling from competing with other apartment complexes that provide low-income housing and eventually stifle his business, he said.

"The $1,300 is nothing. I just want to continue improving my property, and I feel that I have the right to improve my property because that’s the way it was when I went and got a loan on it, " Reidling said. "Now, my livelihood is based on me making it as good as I can make it."

"... It’s not like a place on the lake, ... but I keep it very well maintained for what it is," Reidling said.

And if his mobile home park is annexed, Reidling would simply be out of luck if a natural disaster destroyed any of his mobile homes.

He would not be able to replace those either, Ligon said.

"Replacing the whole thing would then exceed that 60 percent threshold," Ligon said.

Reidling did not ask to be annexed into the city limits, but now his business may have to pay city taxes and follow the city’s rules, he said. The city’s rules will eventually change the way he has to do business in Hall County and keep him from improving the current one, he said.

"If I’m not allowed to improve my property, as a businessman, I might as well just lay down and die," Reidling said.

But Ligon said the purpose of the annexation is not to hurt local businesses or bring in more revenue. City officials maintain that the main purpose of the annexation is to eliminate confusion when it comes to delivering local services such as dispatching law enforcement or firefighters in an emergency.

"We’re not doing this to ruin anyone’s business," Ligon said. "These are going to be comments and considerations that the council is going to have to take into consideration when they make the decision."

If the council decides to move forward with the annexation next month, Reidling does not plan to back down from his stance opposing it — although he says he is fully aware that "fighting city hall" can prove fruitless.

He has lost battles with the city before.

"I’ve got no choice; I’ll have to go down fighting," he said.

A public information meeting is planned for 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Gainesville Civic Center.

The Planning and Appeals Board and the City Council are both scheduled to vote on the annexation of the islands on Dec. 2. If approved, the annexation would be complete by the end of the year.



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