The agenda will include time for public comments with a vote likely on the annexation proposal.
The city sent a certified letter April 2 to all targeted landowners containing a map outlining the desired property, as well as an agenda for the next two public hearings on the matter. The notice stated that in order to better deliver services, unincorporated “islands of land” would be brought into the city limits.
City Manager Brian Bulthuis said annexing the properties would eliminate unincorporated pockets that confuse emergency responders and road maintenance crews over jurisdiction.
“If you look at the map of holes that we have, a Cobb County police officer has to go through the city of Acworth to respond. We are trying to solve that problem,” Bulthuis said about the plan, which started with the city administration staff preparing documents in March.
The letter stated that the Georgia Legislature encourages this type of deal between county and city governments. House Bill 1439, approved in 2000 by the General Assembly, repealed the need for the existing landowner’s signature, requiring only the approval of the county governing authority.
Robert Morgan and his wife, Linda, have owned their home since 1985, which sits in the far northwest corner of the targeted properties.
“I consider it an oasis, although we are surrounded by warehouses,” Morgan said about his “back to land” mentality when deciding to purchase the plot.
“I am rooted in the land. It is going to be very hard to get me out of here,” said Morgan, whose large garden, water well, septic tank and wood-burning stove make his residence less dependent on utility services.
Morgan said he views the annexation as a done deal, pointing to the Planning and Zoning Board’s unanimous decision on April 23 to pass the proposal on to the mayor and the Board of Aldermen.
Morgan said he objects to the whole process, which he views as annexation without representation.
“(The City of Acworth) makes decisions in a back room, until they notify you that you are fixing to be annexed,” Morgan said about receiving the letter.
The notice stated the transition would not “interrupt any land use currently occurring.” But Morgan said the quick grab leaves a lack of trust. If they can take land for annexation this easily, he fears they could just as easily condemn his property for a “better use.”
Morgan attended the board’s work session Monday night at Acworth City Hall.
“I am encouraged by the fact that people did show up,” Morgan said. He said many of the concerned landowners who turned out for the meeting are normally private and not civically or politically active.
Morgan said Allegood and the Board of Aldermen did not field questions at the last forum. He wants more information on the type of services the city will provide after the annexation.
Morgan said he has experienced long wait times when calling the Cobb County Police to respond to consistent noise problems with a neighbor.
Bulthuis emphasized the annexation is to help response teams. He said the residents in unincorporated areas will not need to switch to city water or other utilities once they are annexed into the city.
Concerns over taxes
Along Morgan’s property, Steve McNeel owns 10 parcels in an industrial park that is now part of unincorporated Cobb County. If the annexation is approved, McNeel expects to incur more than $33,000 per year in new city property tax.
McNeel said this “double taxation” would be on top of the millions of dollars he already pays to Cobb County. He blamed his increasing county property tax bill on rising valuations, despite losing tenants during the down economy.
“The only thing we are getting is a police car to ride down our street, which is not necessary,” said McNeel, whose utilities are provided by Cobb County Water System and buildings are inspected by the Cobb County Fire Department.
McNeel spoke at the past two meetings. He stated that the entire group was only given 5 to 10 minutes to address the committee. McNeel, who plans on attending Thursday’s public forum, said the annexation is being quickly forced through.
Bulthuis said each commenter during Thursday’s meeting will be given 5 minutes to address the board. There will be no limit on the overall amount of time allotted to public comments, he said.
Effect of new ordinances
Ben Turner owns 7 acres on Lot 50, which includes a home he built at 3056 Hickory Grove Road in 1955. Originally, Turner’s land was part of a 50-acre family farm his father purchased in 1929 that grew cotton and peanuts, as well as raised cattle.
“Cobb County is just about developed everywhere. There isn’t much (land) left,” Turner said.
At 83 years old, Turner would be burdened by additional taxes on a fixed income. Without help, Turner predicted he would sell the property.
Ten years ago, Turner turned down an offer on the land when his wife, Helen Louise, was alive.
“I didn’t want the money, I just wanted a place to live,” he said.
Much of the original farm has been developed into subdivisions, such as Lake Park. Turner still gardens on his plot, and recently considered adding goats for the existing pasture and barn. The annexation has him worried about Acworth city ordinances on livestock.
Turner said he was satisfied with Cobb County’s emergency services.
“We have everything we need. The city has nothing to offer,” Turner said.
Bulthuis spoke of property owners’ worries about increased tax payments.
“We understand their concern,” Bulthuis said. “The mayor and the board are looking at some options.”