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City Council gives 1st OK to annexing islands
Planning commission approved request earlier
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Gainesville City Council gave its first OK Tuesday night to annexing 115 “island” properties on 197 acres in Hall County.

The vote was 4-1, with Councilman George Wangemann in opposition.

“Personally, I don’t like to force anybody to do anything against their will, and I think this is a pretty clear-cut case of (that),” Wangemann said.

No other council members spoke on the subject during the vote. In council member comments later, Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras said she regretted hearing that some people didn’t want to be part of the city.

An island is unincorporated land surrounded by city property.

City officials have said the purpose of the annexations is to clean up boundaries and set consistent zoning standards in gateway corridors and commercial areas.

If the council approves it in a final vote set for July 16, the annexation, affecting mostly zoned commercial and industrial property, will take effect Aug. 1.

The council held a public hearing and a vote on the matter in December, but postponed a second vote after the Hall County Board of Commissioners filed an objection with the Department of Community Affairs.

An arbitration panel sided with the city’s proposed zoning uses for the annexed land in March.

The county doesn’t plan to try again to stop the annexation process. County Attorney Bill Blalock has said, however, that it will monitor Gainesville’s process.

Current and former county commissioners have stated in the past that they oppose the city’s plans, calling it a strong-arm move by the city.

The proposal didn’t get much love from five people who spoke up at Tuesday’s meeting.

Among those was John Lloyd Jones, owner of Office Pro’s, a small company on Browns Bridge Road, who said that two Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence, Button Gwinnett and Lyman Hall, “certainly would not agree with what we’re doing here.

“One of the reasons they signed (the document) was because of taxation without representation. We can’t vote for or against you.”

Wangemann referred to that patriotic cause in his remarks, as well.

“This does trample on individual property rights — one of the most basic rights that we have and enjoy,” he said.

The Rev. Anwaan Hill of St. Paul United Methodist Church on Summit Street told the council, “We need to have the right to see if (we) want to come into the city.

“We’re the taxpayers and what we pay should matter to you guys. I would ask you to reconsider what you’re doing, because all of you are coming up for election,” Hill said. “And I promise you this: I’m going to hold you accountable for what you do tonight.”

Ward 1 and Ward 4 seats, held by Danny Dunagan and Wangemann, respectively, are on the Nov. 5 ballot. Voters also will elect a mayor for the first time; the office, now held by Dunagan, has rotated among council members in two-year terms.

Also speaking against the proposal was Mike Holland of Holland Wrecker Service, 2509 Browns Bridge Road.

“I don’t want to be in the city,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with anybody who wants to be in the city. I’d like to ask all of you to vote against it.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board recommended approval of the city’s request to annex the properties.

The board approved the request with conditions 4-1, with Doyle Johnson voting against.

Jones also spoke at that meeting, saying he can’t afford to pay increased taxes because he’s struggling to make a profit.

“Business is tough right now,” Jones told the board.

He said he was also concerned that his business would be subject to both city and county regulations, something Johnson said was not correct.

Board member John Snyder said growth is coming to Gainesville and the city could triple the number of residents in the next 30 years.

“You have a business here operating on one set of codes and a building right next door operating on another set of codes,” Snyder said. “That is what, to me, this is all about.”

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