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City holds first hearing for new annexation fee
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An amendment to the City of Dawsonville annexation ordinance that will allow the city to charge an additional fee for each property annexing into the city as well as help reduce the number of unincorporated islands was heard in the first of two public hearings by the city council Monday.

If approved by council, the city code of ordinances would be amended to include a new chapter that establishes an annexation fee for those wishing to incorporate their property.

The fee will be a one-time payment of $250, and is in addition to rezoning fees that the city already charges for properties annexing into the city. The city has had no prior annexation fee.

Because county zoning and city zoning classifications do not match up, when a property is annexed into the city it must also be rezoned and incurs a fee. The amendment will apply a few changes to the fees.

The most notable change is the proposed addition of a $50 per additional acre charge after the first acre on all rezonings, with a $5,000 cap on the fee. The current schedule applies that charge to only six out of the 16 zoning classifications.

The amendment has 18 zoning classifications, splitting up R1 (restricted single-family residential) and RA (residential agricultural) into their own classifications and adding a fee for AP, or annexed property district, which allows landowners to annex land into the corporate limits of Dawsonville without changing the use of their land or the intensity of the use as when under county zoning.

The fee for appeals and change of zoning conditions shows an increase from $225 to $500.

These changes would mean that some property owners wishing to annex into the city would have to pay double (or more) than what they previously would have paid. Someone wanting to rezone their property to R1 under the current schedule would pay a fee of $250. With the addition of a new annexation fee, the cost to annex would be $500, or more if the property is more than one acre.

The amendment also addresses a big issue that the city has tried for years to resolve. The issue of islands, or unincorporated properties surrounded by properties within city limits, is one that Mayor Grogan was publicly chastised for in February for attempting to solve by suggesting the council allow 18 Gold Creek subdivision property owners to annex at a reduced rate.

Grogan and many residents have argued that allowing multiple owners to annex property in at a discounted rate would help clean up islands, including 70-plus lots in Gold Creek.

At a previous meeting, city council members discussed the fact that property owners in Gold Creek who previously annexed into the city under the PUD (planned unit development) classification did not pay the whole $500 required by the fee schedule.

Gold Creek property owners at that meeting voiced their dismay at the thought of paying $500 plus the new $250 annexation fee when their neighbors annexed in for significantly less.

The amendment will allow owners of islands wishing to be annexed into the city who apply in a group of at least five or more properties to go before the council and ask for a reduced rate so that the city is compensated for the work it takes to annex and rezone properties, while recognizing it saves the city money to incorporate multiple tracts of islands at the same time.

"The council in its discretion may make any adjustment in the fees at its next regular meeting and thereafter upon payment of said fee, the applications shall proceed in accord with the hearing and consideration process," the proposed ordinance reads.

If no adjustment is made by council, the regular fee schedule applies.

The second public hearing will be held at the council's July 10 meeting, after which the council could vote to amend and/or approve the amendment to city ordinances.

In other business:

Budget approved
The council also voted unanimously Monday to adopt a $5 million budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

The budget will go into effect July 1.

During the meeting council members approved budget amendments to the general and enterprise funds- an amount of $28,000 to purchase aerators for the city's wastewater treatment plant and $59,000 for extra legal fees in administration and in the planning and zoning department.

No one spoke for or against the proposed budget during the second and final public hearing.

Training for Mayor denied
The council voted unanimously to deny a request for Grogan to attend training in Jekyll Island in August, which would have cost the city $1,234.46.

Council Member Mike Sosebee motioned that the council approve the training, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Document purge denied
A request to purge all city documents through fiscal year 2011-2012 as outlined by the city's record retention policy was denied.

Council Member Angie Smith motioned to deny the request and Council Member Caleb Phillips seconded the motion.

"Based on some of the things that we've got going on in the office that might continue for the next little while that we might need, I just don't think it's a smart thing to do to purge these documents as of yet," Smith said.

The motion was approved unanimously.