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Gainesville police want right-of-way on 3 miles of I-985
City planning board recommends approval of requests
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The Gainesville Planning and Appeals board voted in favor of two requests from the city police department to annex the right-of-way of two major corridors of the city Tuesday.

The two proposed annexations are meant to eliminate jurisdictional confusion during emergencies, Planning Director Rusty Ligon said.

In one application, the police department requested to annex the right-of-way on both sides of a section of Interstate 985 that stretches from Exit 20 to 2.835 miles south of the exit.

In the second request, the department asked that the city annex right-of-way on a 0.48 mile stretch of McEver Road from its intersection with Dawsonville Highway toward its intersection with Browns Bridge Road.

Both areas are currently surrounded by the city limits.

Since both annexation requests concern right-of-way on state highways, the state Department of Transportation owns the land in question and residential property taxes are not an issue, Deputy Chief of the Gainesville Police Department Jane Nichols said.

The annexations, if approved by the City Council next month, will make it easier for city police to investigate traffic accidents and search suspected drug traffickers on the interstate, Nichols said.

"We think it would just make things a lot clearer and a lot easier for everybody to determine who’s responsible for what," Nichols said. "That’s really our main objective is to just clear up the confusion that we have around those exits and on that portion of 985 that’s between the city limits on one end and the city limits on the other."

Gaining jurisdiction on the interstate, Nichols said, is more about quick response to traffic accidents and keeping drugs from coming to Gainesville than catching speeders.

"We just kind of want to ... assure folks that we’re not about setting up a speed trap on 985 — we don’t have time to do that. But we sure do have time to try to stop these dopers who are coming into this jurisdiction and that’s what our real law enforcement goal is," Nichols said.

The board also passed along a recommendation of approval to the City Council for three major changes to the city’s Unified Land Development Code that affect special temporary outdoor events, the city’s sign code and rules for sheds.

The proposed changes would require that residential accessory buildings be no more than half the size of the property’s primary structure.

The changes also would require that accessory buildings larger than 200 square feet be built with similar materials to those used for the primary structure.

The proposed changes also allow for larger electronic message boards at businesses and for four carnivals to be held at one site annually without the need for council approval.

As the city’s code stands today, carnival-type events are limited to two per year on a particular site in the general business zoning district, and those two events must not last longer than 15 days and must be separated by at least one month, Ligon said.

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