So­cial Cir­cle re­peals 2006 an­nex­a­tion

Acer­age re­mains part of New­ton County

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

On Thurs­day, the So­cial Cir­cle City Coun­cil re­pealed a con­tro­ver­sial 2006 an­nex­a­tion of 1,500 acres of New­ton County land, cit­ing a tech­ni­cal flaw in the bound­ary de­scrip­tion of the an­nexed prop­erty as the rea­son.

So­cial Cir­cle Mayor Jim Burgess said the coun­cil was made aware of the flaw by City At­tor­ney Joe Reit­man and based on his le­gal ad­vice de­cided to re­peal the an­nex­a­tion.

“Based on that ad­vice, I re­ally felt like we had no choice,” Burgess said.

De­spite the protests of New­ton County, So­cial Cir­cle an­nexed the 1,500 acres, lo­cated on the north side of In­ter­state 20 be­tween Ga. High­way 11 and U.S. High­way 278, in Novem­ber 2006. A month af­ter the land was an­nexed New­ton County filed a law­suit against the city. In its law­suit the county ar­gued the an­nex­a­tion should be de­clared void as it vi­o­lated the an­nex­a­tion or­di­nances of So­cial Cir­cle, the county and Ge­or­gia.

One ar­gu­ment of the county ap­pears to have borne fruit. In its suit the county ar­gued the an­nex­a­tion had cre­ated un­in­cor­po­rated is­lands, which are il­le­gal in the state. The county claimed So­cial Cir­cle tried to get around the pro­hi­bi­tion of un­in­cor­po­rated is­lands by leav­ing 10-foot strips of land as con­nec­tors be­tween the unan­nexed land parcels.

Reit­man said the city felt

the 10-foot strips were legally ac­cept­able and were “fee sim­ple” or com­pletely owned by the landown­ers. How­ever Reit­man said the city learned at the end of Fe­bru­ary the strips were ac­tu­ally de­scribed as ease­ments in the bound­ary de­scrip­tion for the an­nex­a­tion and there­fore did con­sti­tute un­in­cor­po­rated is­lands.

“Those 10-foot strips were in­tended to re­main as New­ton County prop­erty and not be­come So­cial Cir­cle prop­erty but be­cause of a le­gal de­scrip­tion in the an­nex­a­tion pe­ti­tion, that prop­erty ac­tu­ally be­cam e So­cial Cir­cle an­nex- ation prop­erty, sub­ject to an ease­ment for New­ton County an­nex­a­tion,” Reit­man said. “It is a lit­tle bit of a gray area and ar­guably a de­bat­able point but the city wanted this an­nex­a­tion to be be­yond re­proach.”

The re­peal­ing of the an­nex­a­tion also in­val­i­dates the Mixed Use Busi­ness Park zon­ing given to the en­tire 1,150 acres by So­cial Cir­cle. The for­merly an­nexed land is owned by a group of six landown­ers. They are: MAB Hold­ing Com­pany, Thomas H. Camp­bell, Carolyn Pen­land, J. Brad Bet­tis, Lit­tle River Ven­tures LLC and Chas M. Bet­tis.

Burgess said he did not know whether the city coun­cil would agree to an­nex the land again.

“I don’t know whether we would or not,” Burgess said. “I guess that ball is in the court of the prop­erty owner and I don’t know what they‘re go­ing to do.”

John Pen­land said his fam­ily is cur­rently mulling over their op­tions for what to do with their 465 acres of for­merly an­nexed land.

“We’re just try­ing to fig­ure out what to do,” Pen­land said.

Pen­land said his fam­ily might con­sider reap­ply­ing for an­nex­a­tion, as there were no tech­ni­cal is­sues keep­ing their prop­erty from be­ing re- an­nexed such as the 10-foot strips.

Burgess said he could not com­ment on how the de­ci­sion to re­peal the an­nex­a­tion would af­fect the county’s law­suit against the city.

“ That pretty much con­cludes the whole is­sue,” Burgess said. “I re­gret it tak­ing so long. I wish we could have re­solved it with the county.”

Ear­lier this month the county filed a mo­tion seek­ing sum­mary judg­ment in its suit. James Grif­fin, an at­tor­ney for New­ton County, said news of the re­peal of the an­nex­a­tion was still too new for the county to have for­mu­lated a re­sponse.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.