The City of Gainesville wants you to be in their city. You may think you have a choice, but for 115 landowners, you don’t. The city can and will bring you in without your consent or vote.
This isn’t the first time Gainesville sought to forcibly annex property. Back in 2008, Gainesville dropped a plan to annex 561 parcels after a lot of public outcry. Things have changes since 2008, however. Back in 2008, 80% of the properties were residential; now, most of the properties are commercial. Another interesting point is that at a public hearing in 2009, then Mayor, Myrtle Figueras, said that Gainesville’s proposed annexation of ‘island’ properties is not a land and tax revenue grab. By leaving out the residential properties, how can you not describe it as anything other than a land and tax revenue grab?
In 2009 the commissioner from District Four, Ashley Bell, went against the board in voting to not challenge the forced annexation in court and it appears that he will this time as well; “He (Ashley Bell) won’t be among them (the Commissioners that object) and said a lawsuit would be a waste of money.”
While I agree that the Law appears to be on the City’s side, I don’t agree that there shouldn’t be a fight. The question for me is how many of these islands have been created since the law making the creation of islands illegal? The fact is, these owners are represented by the County Commission and should be entitled to a voice.
I believe it is also in the best interest of the county to not allow for the annexation. From the county perspective, while they would still continue to collect property taxes, the Hall County School system will lose tax dollars to the City Schools AND the fire tax will be transferred from the County to the City. According to the Times, the city will see an increase of $79,200. When you consider that the school millage rate for the city is about 1.555 mills higher than the county, the property owners will be paying an additional $42,000 more for schools. While it shouldn’t have an impact on the general fund, it may mean that you will pay more in fire and school tax in the future.
From the city’s perspective, why not bring them in. Yes, you collect an additional $79,200 in taxes every year, but by not bringing in the residential, you don’t bring in any additional expense or people that might vote against you in the next election. This works even more for the City Schools, you receive an additional $200k per year AND no students!
It will be interesting to see how the new commission responds to this land grab. On the incoming Chairman’s web page, he lists one of his major planks is to “Rebuild relationships between the County and the Cities that form our community”. I don’t think this is what the county was looking for as a first step towards rebuilding relationships The commissioner replacing Ashley Bell, Jeff Stowe, has an interesting quote from Thomas Jefferson on his webpage; “A good government is one which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread that it has earned.” Will the Commissioner elect join the fight to keep the City of Gainesville from “injuring” these 115 property owners financially? I guess we will see in about a month.