The Gainesville City Council voted unanimously in favor on the first reading of a controversial annexation request that would bring part of Chicopee Woods and Interstate 985 into the city limits.
The Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission requested to annex 102.8 acres south of I-985 into the city limits. The action would bring the property of the Chicopee Woods Area Parks Commission into the city limits — and the 0.8 mile-stretch of I-985 right of way next to it.
Tuesday’s action was a first reading; a final vote is scheduled for May 19.
The annexation became a point of contention between the city and county when Hall County Commissioner Bobby Banks publicly claimed that Gainesville was annexing the land in order to create a speed trap, a charge the city denied.
Al Crego, chairman of the Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission, spoke in favor of the annexation.
"I am not responsible for all the problems this has caused the (police) chief and the captain," Crego said. "I fully supported this annexation from day one."
He explained that a county island was created due to an oversight when land was swapped with the school board.
Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper also spoke.
"This would bring all their property inside the city limits," Hooper said. "With this annexation it does bring in eight-tenths of a mile of I-985, and 985 north of there is already in the city limits. This will give us a defined jurisdictional boundary ... that should help us with response and it should prevent duplication of services in that area."
No members of the Hall County commission were present at the meeting, and nobody spoke in opposition of the annexation.
In late March, The Hall County Board of Commissioners notified the city of their opposition to the annexation, but no formal complaint was filed.
County Planning Director Randy Knighton sent the city an objection to both the I-985 annexation and another proposed annexation of McEver Road right-of-way.
The objection letter claimed that the city’s only reason for annexing the two roads’ rights-of-way was to give the city additional patrol jurisdiction. The county never took the matter to Department of Community Affairs to send the annexation request into arbitration.
The commission called a public hearing in April to have Hooper explain the city’s need to annex the property.
Banks told The Times on Monday he was no longer fighting the issue.
"It doesn’t do any good; they (the city) are going to do what they want to anyway," Banks said. "I made my point, and everybody knows what they’re going to be doing down there."