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Gainesville again considers annexing islands
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David McGhee, battalion chief with the Hall County Fire Services, has fought fires for the county for 30 years. He also owns commercially zoned land in the county that will cost him more than $200 more in taxes if the city of Gainesville decides to annex his property.

“They’re being greedy,” McGhee said. “They want the good property.”

Gainesville is moving ahead to annex 115 islands of commercial and gateway corridor properties totaling about 197 acres, a plan that failed to garner public support in 2009, with two public meetings on the issue set for Dec. 4. Property owners will have to pay about $79,200 more in taxes if their land becomes part of Gainesville, documents show.

City officials acknowledge that some residents will be upset by the tax increase, but the annexation is needed to better define the city’s boundaries and present a consistent appearance in areas where major highways and interstates come in to the city.

Gainesville Community Development Director Rusty Ligon said the city has sent out letters to the property owners and to Hall County commissioners in the past few days.

He has received four calls from residents since then, with three of the four calls expressing concern about the tax increase.

Some landowners may see an increase of less than $100 while some face a rise in the thousands. Big Lots Inc., a national discount retailer, would have to pay about $16,000 more in taxes for its store on Browns Bridge Road.

Schreiber Foods Inc.’s property taxes would increase by more than $1,800 if its land on White Sulphur Road were incorporated into Gainesville.

Gainesville tried to implement this plan in 2009, but met opposition from the public and Hall County officials, who threatened a lawsuit. Commissioner Ashley Bell said he thinks the majority of commissioners will oppose the annexation. He won’t be among them and said a lawsuit would be a waste of money.

“The law’s very clear,” Bell said. “We will lose.”

City staff began working on this plan again after the City Council requested it on Nov. 1, Ligon said. At that time, Mayor Pro Tem George Wangemann told his colleagues he didn’t support forced annexations. He would support annexation if the property owners requested it at the hearings.

“The real power is in the voice of the people,” Wangemann said.

The Planning and Appeals Board meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 4 in the Municipal Courtroom at 701 Queen City Parkway.

The council meeting is 5:30 p.m. at the same location.

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