Prior to the Gainesville City Council’s vote to annex 115 “island” properties into the city limits Tuesday night, the Hall County Board of Commissioners moved forward with a formal objection of the annexation.
During last Thursday’s commission meeting, the board voted unanimously to file an objection to the annexation with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
The department has 15 days to appoint an arbitration panel, which, in turn, has 60 days to render a decision on the appeal.
If the state department, however, finds in the city’s favor, some commissioners are prepared to take the matter to court.
“We have to file an appeal through the Department of Community Affairs,” said Scott Gibbs, District 3 commissioner. “Once we go through that appeal process, the county will make a decision on whether to take them to court and sue them if there’s no resolution there. ... That would be my vote.”
Some county commissioners said the annexation is a strong-arm move from the city, costing county property owners more than $79,000 in additional taxes.
“It’s not the will of the people,” said Tom Oliver, commission chairman. “I mean, if someone wants to annex into the city of Gainesville, they’re welcome to do it. But why do you want to take a club and beat them over the head with it and say: ‘Hey, you’re going to give us money.’ Essentially that’s what it’s doing.”
City officials, however, maintain the annexation is to clean up boundaries and set consistent zoning standards in gateway corridors and commercial areas.
In fact, Mayor Danny Dunagan said, the savings from water and fire insurance could completely offset the additional taxes the property owners would pay.
“I don’t have a problem with (the county’s objection) if it’s what they want to do,” said Dunagan. “We’re just following state law and it’s state law that gives us the authority to do the island annexations like we’re doing them.
“(The county commissioners are) entitled to their own feelings and if that’s the way they feel, then that’s the way they feel. We’re not the first city in the state of Georgia to do the island annexations and probably not going to be the last.”
Dunagan said the city would pocket about $94,000 annually from the additional property taxes the annexation would bring. Out of a $27 million budget, he said, it’s “not much money.”
“We’re not doing it for a revenue booster, I promise you,” he said.
Gibbs, however, said it’s “not right” for the city to isolate properties and force them into the city.
“It’s a 25 percent tax increase, basically,” said Gibbs. “It’s tough everywhere — people can’t afford it. ... I just think it’s a hostile annexation.”
The city’s planning and appeals board voted 6 to 1 to recommend against the annexation prior to the council’s vote. The City Council approved the annexation 4-1 with Councilman George Wangemann dissenting.