Gainesville small business owner John Lloyd Jones said he compares the city’s proposal to annex 115 “island” properties in Hall County to the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting groups wanting tax-exempt status.
The city is moving forward again with the annexation process after being stymied last year by county objections and claims the city wasn’t following its own annexation laws. The Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board and the Gainesville City Council are both holding public hearings and votes on Tuesday.
The city’s intention is to take the prime property in the county to increase its own revenue, Jones said. Gainesville officials maintain it’s to clean up boundaries and set consistent zoning standards in gateway corridors and commercial areas.
Jones’ company, School Tools & Office Pro’s, would face a tax hike if he was forced within city boundaries, he said. His small business saw a net profit of $20,000 last year.
The small business owner said he’ll pay $3,500 annually in new taxes if the City Council approves annexation. That will reduce his profits by about 17.5 percent.
“This is bigger than that in my opinion; we’ve got another layer of government telling us what to do,” Jones said. “We’re doubling the amount of government that’s managing and telling us what to do.”
City documents from last year showed that the city would gain about $79,000 in additional taxes.
Gainesville council members held a public hearing and a vote in December, but postponed a second vote after Hall County commissioners filed an objection with the Department of Community Affairs.
An arbitration panel sided with the city’s proposed zoning uses for the annexed land in March.
The county doesn’t plan to try to stop the annexation process this time as it tried to do before. County Attorney Bill Blalock said in an email that it will monitor Gainesville’s process.
“The city’s actions will be reviewed as it proceeds with its attempt to annex the islands in question,” Blalock said.
Current and former county commissioners have stated in the past that they oppose the city’s plans, calling it a strong-arm move by the city.
Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, has filed legislation that would force cities to annex all island properties or none. It’s expected to be considered in January.
Gainesville also recently amended its local annexation ordinance to try to reduce further legal action against its annexation plan.
The city changed its local ordinance to echo the state ordinance, which has fewer advertising requirements.
Annexation started by a local government requires that a public notice be published in a local newspaper.
The previous ordinance required posting signs on the affected and adjacent properties.
Jones sent email letters to all of the county commissioners about the planned annexation. In them, Jones asked commissioners to again block annexation or to allow it with a commitment for consolidation of city and county services such as fire, police and education.
Commissioners Craig Lutz and Richard Mecum responded to Jones, saying consolidation would have benefits.
Lutz said that because Gainesville changed its ordinance, he didn’t know that the county had any standing to file an injunction against the annexation process.
“I do agree that the state law needs to be changed and I will forward your letter to our state delegation,” the email stated.
Jones said the city’s plan is unfair and it is just picking the good property and businesses that are doing well. He said several businesses plan to speak in opposition to the annexation plan.