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Clermont business owners not giving up on de-annexation
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Chris Nonnemaker, owner of Papa’s Pizza To-Go, during an interview with a reporter in Clermont, on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. - photo by David Barnes

A business owner seeking to de-annex his property from Clermont said being allowed beer and wine sales by the city is no longer enough for him

Chris Nonnemaker, owner of Papa’s Pizza To-Go on U.S. 129 inside the Clermont town district, said Wednesday that the biggest issue for him is property rights.

“This is not an alcohol issue, it is a de-annexation issue,” Nonnemaker said. “It’s not about alcohol now. It’s a de-annexation issue to allow us our property rights that our surrounding neighbors have and we are denied because we are in the city of Clermont. I won’t be satisfied if the city gives us beer and wine.”  

Nonnemaker’s ally, Iron Accents owner Mark Kirves, said he paid to have a Cumming attorney draft a de-annexation bill for him and other business owners who want out of the town. Iron Accents is a gift store.

Kirves said the challenge now is to find a member of the Hall County delegation to introduce a de-annexation bill, after Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, recently told The Times that he would not do so.

Hawkins said he promised Clermont City Council that he would not introduce such legislation if council placed a nonbinding straw poll over beer and wine sales on the ballot in the town’s election held last week. Voters turned down beer and wine sales by a vote of 80-46.

Although disappointed by Hawkins’ decision, Kirves said he’s not giving up and is soliciting the help of state Sen.Butch Miller, R-Gainesville.

“I put in a call to Butch and I’m pretty much asking him two things: One, can he enter the bill, or two, can he introduce me to some other legislators in the House of Representatives that can enter the bill,” Kirves said.

The Times left a message for Miller asking him to comment on the property owners’ de-annexation request, but did not hear back by presstime.

Nonnemaker and Kirves said Miller is very much in favor of property rights and are confident he will introduce them to other members of the Hall County delegation.

Hawkins said the practice over the years has been for local legislation to first be introduced in the House.

Kirves said he had a draft of a de-annexation bill written in the spring by Cumming attorney Stuart Teague.

“I tried to make it so (legislators) didn’t have to do any work, it would be convenient, here’s the bill,” Kirves said. “Sponsor it, let’s move forward and get us out of Clermont. Let Clermont do what it wants to do and we’ll be back in Hall County.”

Kirves said he’s hired college students to continue going door to door in Clermont asking registered voters to sign a petition in favor of beer and wine sales. He said more than 100 of the town’s approximately 525 registered voters have signed the petition favoring alcohol sales.

Nonnemaker said he wants to open a classy family sports grill on his property, but knows he would be unable to compete with unincorporated businesses on Cleveland Highway that sell alcohol. Nonnemaker said the 80 people who voted against beer and wine do not represent the will of the town’s 525 registered voters.

“We’re getting a lot of signatures,” Nonnemaker said. “I know we have over 120 signatures now. A lot of people have told me they didn’t even know about the election. That’s what’s so unfair about this thing. It was done so close to the election that people weren’t properly notified of what was going on.”

During a special called Clermont Town Council meeting Oct. 9 that was attended by Hawkins, council members clearly let it be known they would be opposed to any de-annexation effort. It was at that meeting that council voted by a split decision to place the beer and wine issue on the ballot — just a few weeks before the Nov. 7 election.