Businesses: City forcing annexation

CONYERS - Six property owners urged the Conyers/Rockdale Planning Commission on Thursday to recommend denying a proposed rezonings by the city of Conyers because they are being annexed into the city limits against their will.

The properties in question are referred to as "islands" of unincorporated property, which are surrounded on all sides by land within the city of Conyers.

Georgia law allows cities to annex these types of properties without the property owners' permission as a way to clean up jurisdictional lines and clarify government services.

Conyers officials said that's exactly what they are doing. However, the property owners affected said they feel they are being forced into the city without any say in the matter.

A bluntly worded letter was mailed to all six property owners - four along Dogwood Drive, one on Flat Shoals Road and one on Ga. Highway 20 South - before Thanksgiving stating that "in the best interest of the city, your property will be annexed." The letter, dated Nov. 19, noted the City Council will vote on the annexation this month. A few days later, rezoning signs appeared on the properties advising the city's plans to change the zoning from the county's zoning to the most compatible city zoning.

Marvin Flanigan, director of planning and inspection services for Conyers, presented the ctiy's rezoning requests to the planning commission Thursday. The planning commission hears requests for rezonings and makes recommendations of approval or denial to the City Council or county commission.

"It could have been handled a little better," said LeAnne Long, owner of RE/MAX Around Atlanta East, which is located at 1400 Dogwood Drive. "At least if they are going to annex me, come meet with me. Meet with me as a property owner. Sit down with me, discuss it with me. Tell me why I will benefit from it, because I know I'm going to get hit with higher taxes."

Long said being annexed into the city will mean an extra $5,000 on top of the $12,000 she already pays in county taxes. Other property owners expressed the same concern during the planning commission meeting.

Long said she believes businesses don't care whether or not they are in the jurisdiction of the city or the county, but she said many owners also don't believe the additional services offered by the city match the tax increase.

"I have no issue whether I'm in the city or the county," she said. "I think both of them provide great, great services, but I just don't feel like I'm going to benefit paying the extra taxes."

Flanigan said he could only address Thursday the proposed rezonings from county classificiations to the city's and that any comment on annexation was a "political question" best addressed by the mayor and City Council.

However, that put the planning commission in the unusual position of being asked to recommend rezonings requested by Conyers on properties that were not yet in the city and belong to people who either opposed being annexed into the city or wanted more explanation.

After hearing the complaints of the first two property owners, commission Chairwoman Charlotte Kinsey wanted to move to defer a recommendation as a way to make a statement to the City Council that property owners had not had time to address their concerns.

Commission member Rob Green disagreed, however, and said sending a statement like that was beyond the scope of the planning commission. He said the City Council could simply ignore the deferral recommendation and go forward on annexation and rezoning without input from the planning commission.

"We're digging way too much into what the City Council and Board of Commissioners do, and we need to be concernined with the zoning," Green said.

Each of the city's rezoning petitions - including one that was requested by the Conyers Housing Authority on Norton Road - were recommended for approval. However, planning commission members included a non-binding statement that the commission did not agree with how Conyers had handled the annexations and urged the city to meet with each of the property owners.

The matter moves to the Conyers City Council, which will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.