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County ponders latest annexation bid

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Once again, Forsyth County officials are bracing for a fight with the City of Cumming over another in a continuing series of annexation proposals.

This time, the city is seeking annexation of 54.2 acres just east of the city limits not far from the shores of Lake Lanier. The city’s request is on behalf of the applicant, Gateway to Lanier LLC, whose principal is listed with the Secretary of State’s Office as David Evans. Evans also serves on the Cumming Development Authority.

At the County Commission’s March 10 work session, County Attorney Ken Jarrard reported the city plans to zone the tract AP, a new designation the city instituted last year. Under this zoning, the land remains at its current county zoning designation for one year, after which time, the city can change it to whatever it desires, Jarrard said.

“As we know, after that year, the county has no means of objecting at that point,” he said. “It’s a very clever way of basically trying to hedge against our objections by basically not suggesting to us what they truly want to do.”

The majority of the tract is currently zoned commercial business district with the county.

County Commissioner Molly Cooper said she is concerned about the “flavor” of this annexation.

“The Development Authority of the city, are they targeting county-zoned property to expand their development?” she asked. “It looks like they are.”

Cooper said plans for the site include 6 acres for commercial development, and the remainder will be dedicated to multi-purpose development with townhomes and apartments.

“So, we’re going to be losing all of that commercial out of our tax base,” Cindy Jones Mills said.

Cooper said the loss of impact fees for fire and library services will be substantial.

“And as these developments come in, then the cost increases dramatically to provide those services for these developments like crazy,” she said.

Cooper further stated that the proposed development is diagonal across the road from a development that includes a workout center, single-family homes, office, a bed and breakfast, and a multi-story senior living facility.

“If you look at that, the craziness of the congestion there is just insane,” she said.

The annexation request is the latest in a series of moves the city has made over the past year to expand its boundaries. In all, the city has filed more than a half dozen annexations with the county since last January. The county has fought several of the requests, arguing they present a stark contrast in land use than the county originally intended.

Under Georgia law, a county cannot challenge an annexation unless it can show, among other things, that the property’s new use would either add burden to the county’s services or dramatically change land use.

Over the course of the past year, county officials have expressed exasperation, accusing the city of attempting a “land grab.”

Commissioner Mills said she’d like to have a joint meeting with city officials so the county’s side of the argument could be heard. The city needs to realize, she said, that these developments draw heavily on county resources, like fire and libraries, without helping with the cost.

“We need to talk facts,” she said.

Commissioners are expected to discuss the issue further at their next work session March 24. The county has until early April to file an objection with the state to stop the annexation.

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