Houston residents sidestep Warner Robins annexation

chwright@macon.comNovember 19, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- Residents from a Houston County neighborhood slapped high fives Monday when once again they sidestepped annexation into the city of Warner Robins.

“We appreciate the council understanding our concerns and not annexing us,” said Ken Ford, one of five homeowners who avoided being forced into the city.

City Council tackled its latest annexation ordinance at its regular council meeting, during which the council also approved the draft of a Redevelopment Plan intended to help establish its first tax allocation district and bought and sold property.

After Councilman Daron Lee motioned to approve the annexation of a list of Houston County properties that are connected to city utilities -- except for a handful of properties that had been removed from a similar list last year -- council voted 4-2.

“It’s only fair that if you come down here and council tells you something, you shouldn’t have to come back down and fight the same fight,” said Councilman Mike Davis.

Councilmen Mike Brashear and Mike Daley voted with Lee and Davis for the amended ordinance.

Council members Paul Shealy and Carolyn Robbins voted against it after arguing it’s unfair to pass over some properties while annexing others.

Shealy said at least 1,340 Houston County residents are latched on to city water, sewer and natural gas lines. Although they pay a small monthly bill, it’s not enough to cover the expansion city residents have funded through city taxes, he said.

According to Shealy, it cost about $750,000 to extend sewer lines last year.

The city “can’t continue to run water and sewer lines all throughout the county and you not expect to be annexed,” Shealy told the residents in council chambers.

Shealy pointed out some benefits of annexation, such as a better fire rating that would lower homeowner insurance. To that, Lee said council’s job was to listen to the people.

“Agree with it or not, they don’t want to be a part of” the city, Lee said.

The properties removed from the list -- four in Carter Woods West and one in Kings Crossing Subdivision -- are the only properties in their respective neighborhoods eligible for annexation. Each has a years-old agreement that allowed their developers to latch onto city utilities with the understanding it could be forced into the city once the land touched city property.

Residents told council members in the weeks leading up to the vote that annexation would create service problems, most notably emergency response. Daley and Davis agreed Monday during precouncil discussions.

Shealy said the residents may have been bypassed this time around, but their properties will keep coming up for annexation because the city is closing in on them.

To that, homeowner Ford said council has the right to repeatedly review his property and he would be open to joining the city under one circumstance.

“The whole subdivision, 100 percent, is annexed,” he said.

In a much smoother vote, council unanimously approved the draft of an updated Redevelopment Plan.

It will be used to establish the city’s first tax allocation district, which would allow the city to spur development to reap the increased value of redeveloped blighted property.

The ordinance council approved also set a public hearing for Nov. 29 at 5 p.m. in City Hall, as well as a special-called meeting Dec. 10 to review the final draft of the plan.

The city has to finish the plan and paperwork for the state before Dec. 31 if its to establish the district for next year. Otherwise, it will be pushed back a year.

Also at Monday’s meeting:

• Council tabled an ordinance that would have effectively promoted Maj. John Wagner to assistant police chief. The Carl Vinson Institute, of the University of Georgia, suggested the city create the position for Wagner because has has taken on the duties of a second dissolved major position.

• Council unanimously approved the sale of 18 acres within the Foy S. Evans Industrial Park to Josh Bloodworth, owner of Unique Landscaping, for $216,000.

• Council unanimously approved the purchase of land on South Pleasant Hill Road for $55,000. The utilities department will use it for storage, Shealy said.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service