The Gainesville City Council voted on several agenda items Tuesday evening, but one item was conspicuous by its absence and that was the annexation of 155 “island” properties that the council approved at its meeting on Dec. 4.
One resident, Martha Kimbrell, said she attended the City Council meeting expecting to voice her opinion against the annexation of her commercial property. Community Development Director Rusty Ligon told her the public hearing had already happened — there were two public hearings held on Dec. 4. He advised her to write him a letter with her objections.
“I don’t think now is the time (for annexation),” Kimbrell said. “The renters are struggling and so are we.”
Ligon said the city had decided to postpone the vote on the second reading of the bill until early next year, but declined to specify the reason, citing potential litigation. Hall County has filed an objection with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
Commissioner Billy Powell said the county received a letter Tuesday from the city’s counsel, attorney Frank Jenkins of Jenkins & Bowen PC of Cartersville, that said the city’s attorneys didn’t feel that the county had a valid objection to the city annexation plan and wanted to sit down and talk. He declined to give The Times a copy of the letter.
The Times has requested a copy of the letter under the Opens Records Act.
City Councilman George Wangemann referred questions to City Attorney Bubba Palmour. Palmour said he believed the proposal was delayed because the county had objected and referred The Times to Jenkins. Jenkins did not return a call for comment.
Commissioner Scott Gibbs said forced annexation is wrong and the city may be worried that the state legislature is going to change the law in the next term starting in January. Gibbs said he is willing to go to court after the county goes through the state appeal process.
“I’m willing to protect the taxpayers and property owners of this county,” he said.
In other business, the council approved an amendment to the city’s loitering law to allow the ordinance to apply to public buildings and other property.
The council heard from Senior Pastor Dewayne Payne of A New Walk Christian Fellowship Church. The law appears to target the homeless, the pastor said.
“I’m not sure what the answer is, but this isn’t it,” Payne said. “I don’t know where they’re supposed to go.”
Police Chief Brian Kelly said the change is not intended to target the homeless and is updating a law from the 1950s. The prior law applied only to city streets, not property. Kelly said the department is creating a resource pamphlet that will outline the resources available to people in Gainesville. Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras said she was sure the police would enforce the law as it was intended, “justifiable and reasonable,” she said.
The council also approved making Lakeshore Mall a tax allocation district and amended its lease of the Georgia Mountains Center with Brenau University.