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Gainesville's 'island' annexation at a standstill
Hall Countys opposition puts citys plan in limbo
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The city of Gainesville’s proposal to annex 155 “islands” appears on hold as Hall County pushes for mandatory arbitration and has threatened civil litigation in Hall County Superior Court.

Gainesville’s annexation attorney, Frank Jenkins III of Jenkins & Bowen in Cartersville, and Hall County Attorney Bill Blalock have tentatively agreed to meet in the next couple of weeks to discuss the issues. Blalock said the county has procedural and substantive concerns, while Jenkins said the county’s objections have no merit.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners filed an official objection, dated Nov. 29, with the city of Gainesville. Former Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver told Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan and Community Development Director Rusty Ligon in the letter that the county opposed the plan because the proposed zoning and land uses of many properties is in conflict with the county’s comprehensive plan and its own zoning laws.

The Gainesville City Council had scheduled two votes on the plan and took its first vote to approve the annexation on Dec. 4. A letter from Oliver to Dunagan and Ligon on Dec. 6 said the county would sue if Gainesville went forward with the second vote.

Oliver received a letter from Jenkins dated Dec. 17 that said the county’s objections have no foundation. The Community Affairs department can’t stop the annexation, Jenkins said, it can only decide zoning and land use issues under dispute.

“The city has virtually unabridged authority to annex islands for any reason,” Jenkins said.

But the next scheduled vote on Dec. 18 didn’t happen.

Blalock said he’s familiar with zoning legislation and believes there are many findings that a panel could come back with that could help the county’s position.

The county has also alleged that the city didn’t give proper notice about the annexation. This point was raised at the Dec. 4 Gainesville City Council meeting by Abb Hayes, attorney for SC Gainesville Georgia LLC, the owner of the Big Lots shopping center. The city followed state law, Jenkins said.

“The county has raised these objections in conjunction with state law governing annexation objections,” Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said in a statement. “Further, the attempt to annex 115 parcels without the consent and over the objection of many property owners directly impacted by the annexation proposal is contrary to many basic private property rights, which should be enjoyed by all citizens.”

City officials maintain the annexation is to clean up boundaries and set consistent zoning standards in gateway corridors and commercial areas.

Gainesville City Council’s next voting meeting is 5:30 p.m. Jan. 8. An agenda for that meeting has not yet been released.

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