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Landowners petition for annexation

SOCIAL CIRCLE - Several Newton County landowners have filed to have 334 acres annexed into the city limits of Social Circle.

A portion of the property in question was also part of a much larger annexation approved by Social Circle in 2006 that resulted in a bitter legal fight between the city and county.

This latest petition targets property along the north side of Interstate 20, starting from U.S. 278 by County Line Road, running southwest along Ga. Highway 278 and I-20 to a point less than halfway to Old Social Circle Road.

About 25 percent of the property along eastern U.S. 278, owned by J. Donnie Clack of Little River Ventures LLC, was also included in the previous annexation request.

Clack owns about 320 acres of the property. The remaining owners are Richard T. Hawk; Jeff Bell and Joe Harrison of Oconee Ventures LLC; Mark Thomson of Newton Walton Properties; Thomas Earnest III; and Patricia W. Clayton.

The property owners are also seeking a rezoning change to AG-2. The property currently has numerous zoning classifications.

The AG-2 zoning is a low-intensity zoning district designed for use in the outlying areas of the city, according to City Attorney Joe Reitman.

"I do not know if they have any intent to develop the property at this time. I have not received any information in this process indicating they have any present development intent," Reitman said, adding the AG-2 classification "does not provide for many development opportunities."

The city has sent a letter notifying Newton County of the petition. A source with the Newton County Attorney's Office could not be reached for comment.

A public hearing on the annexation is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at Social Circle City Hall Community Room at 138 E. Hightower Trail.

If the county does not object, the city is free to proceed with the annexation. If an objection is filed, both parties will have to submit to arbitration.

State law was changed to require that disputed annexations be brought before an independent arbitration panel in reaction to the annexation by Social Circle of 1,150 acres along I-20 and U.S. 278 despite the objections of Newton County.

Previously, cities were free to ignore mediators' recommendations, which happened in the Social Circle case.

The county filed a lawsuit seeking to have the annexation and zoning declared invalid and void.

The annexation was ultimately repealed by the Social Circle City Council after it was discovered that the annexation had created an illegal unincorporated island.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.