So­cial Cir­cle of­fers joint land plan­ning

New­ton County asked to drop law­suit

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

At a closed meet­ing in Oc­to­ber, the So­cial Cir­cle City Coun­cil of­fered joint land use plan­ning in any fu­ture an­nex­a­tions if New­ton County would agree to drop its law­suit against the city.

Though the coun­cil did not of­fer to nul­lify its fall 2006 an­nex­a­tion of 1,150 acres of New­ton County land, which in­sti­gated the county’s De­cem­ber, 2006 law­suit, they did of­fer joint-pre-plan­ning and de­ci­sion mak­ing be­tween county and city gov­ern­ments for any fu­ture land an­nex­a­tions and the prom­ise the city­would not an­nex any more land south of In­ter­state-20 with­out the con­sent of the New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers.

The con­tents of So­cial Cir­cle’s six point pre­sen­ta­tion to the BOC last year were re­leased by So­cial Cir­cle Mayor Jim Burgess at the end of last week.

Burgess said he de­cided to re­lease the doc­u­ment, at the re­quest of lo­cal me­dia, be­cause the BOC had thus far failed to re­spond to the coun­cil’s pre­sen­ta­tion.

“The county never re­sponded to me,” Burgess said. “I fig­ured I’ve waited a rea­son­able amount of time.”

The coun­cil’s pre­sen­ta­tion also in­cluded a prom­ise that it would not an­nex any ter­ri­tory north of I20 with­out the 100 per­cent agree­ment of af­fected prop­erty own­ers.

“I felt that any­thing north of I20was more log­i­cally a part of our city,” Burgess said. “I don’t re­ally see us grow­ing across I-20.”

The city coun­cil of­fered to work with the New­ton County Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Author­ity in the de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of a joint re­gion­al­wastew­a­ter treat­ment fa­cil­ity to treat dis­charge be­fore it en­ters the Lit­tle River.

In their pre­sen­ta­tion the coun­cil said they would agree to work with the county on a co­op­er­a­tive agree­ment for a shared wa­ter sup­ply through fi­nan­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion in the county’s Bear Creek Reser­voir project.

Fi­nally the coun­cil said it would sup­port the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the scenic high­way over­lay on Ga. High­way 11 and would work with the county on the de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of co­op­er­a­tive pub­lic safety and ser­vice agree­ments in the ar­eas of po­lice, fire pro­tec­tion and emer­gency ser­vices.

“We put a lot on the ta­ble,” Burgess said.

New­ton County At­tor­ney Tommy Craig said he in­ter­preted the coun­cil’s pro­posal as the coun­cil’s de­sire to re­turn to friendly re­la­tions with the BOC while still keep­ing the 1,150 acres of dis­puted land.

“So­cial Cir­cle laid out in that pre­sen­ta­tion a pro­posal that we meet and work to­ward some ac­com­mo­da­tion that would al­low So­cial Cir­cle the abil­ity to let its an­nex­a­tion stand and en­joy friendly re­la­tions with New­ton County,” Craig said.

Craig said he did not re­spond to the coun­cil’s pro­posal be­cause the ma­jor­ity of the BOC was not in fa­vor of re­turn­ing to friendly re­la­tions with So­cial Cir­cle un­til the mat­ter of the an­nex­a­tion had been set­tled in court or if the coun­cil were to vol­un­tar­ily agree to nul­lify its an­nex­a­tion.

“If the board wants to re­sist So­cial Cir­cle’s an­nex­a­tion then I have to try to help them,” Craig said. “If they want to ne­go­ti­ate some ac­com­mo­da­tion with So­cial Cir­cle then I would help them. Right now, my in­struc­tions are to re­sist.”

In re­sponse to a new mo­tion filed by So­cial Cir­cle City At­tor- ney Joe Reit­man last month to dis­miss the county’s law­suit, the county re­sponded last week with a mo­tion re­quest­ing sum­mary judg­ment in the case. If granted sum­mary judg­ment Su­pe­rior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn would rule on the law­suit in a sin­gle hear­ing. There would be no jury.

Reit­man said he also plans to also file a mo­tion seek­ing sum­mary judg­ment.

In its law­suit suit, the county claims So­cial Cir­cle vi­o­lated its own an­nex­a­tion laws as well as those of the county and Ge­or­gia by an­nex­ing the land. The city has re­sponded that the county’s law­suit is with­out merit and should be dis­missed.

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