Porterdale explores annexation

PORTERDALE - Three out of four City Council members said Tuesday night they are willing to pursue annexation of seven parcels of land totaling 12.28 acres along Ga. Highway 81, if all property owners agree to the annexation. The annexations would close a gap between the city limits of Porterdale and Covington along Highway 81, though the boundaries are already contiguous in other areas.

Zoning Administrator Monty Hill told the council at its regular work session that a pending request from Lamar and Barbara Sowell to annex three parcels of property that lie on the south side of Highway 81 between Porterdale and Covington prompted discussion of the possible annexation of the other four properties. Hill said that annexation of the Sowell's property would create an unincorporated island of three properties on the northern side of Highway 81, which is prohibited by state law.

In a written explanation to the council, Hill stated that the northwest corner of the Sowell's property "adjoins the southeast corner of a property located across the (highway) that is already in the city limits of Porterdale." That connection would create an island of the other properties on the northern side of the highway, he said.

Hill said that of the other four property owners, two have indicated an interest in annexation into Porterdale, while the other two have expressed some concerns about zoning and land use conflicts.

Councilmembers Arline Chapman and Linda Finger said they would consider the annexation only if all property owners were in agreement.

"If I didn't want to be annexed, I wouldn't want the city to force my hand," said Finger.

Councilman Robert Foxworth agreed, but also stated that he would be willing to consider annexation under the 60 percent method, which provides that properties can be annexed if at least 60 percent of the owners and 60 percent of voters in the area agree.

Councilman Mike Harper said he was opposed to any of the annexations due to the fact that some of the current land uses are not allowed under Porterdale zoning. The Sowells have a flea market and auto towing service storage lot on their property. Other property uses include a pawn shop, a welding business and two residential properties.

"I can't see making people down here clean their houses up and clean their yards up and then we annex in 12 acres we've got no control over," Harper said.

Hill said that Porterdale would not have any control over the annexed properties with nonconforming uses until there was a change in use or redevelopment of the property.

Hill said Thursday that he is in the process of discussing the proposed annexations and answering questions for the two property owners who have concerns. Hill said time is an issue because the Sowells' application is pending.

"We're actually trying to get some type of decision by (today) because we do have a petition in hand from the Sowells and we've got to take some kind of action ... or we've got to tell them we can't annex," Hill said.

Under Georgia law, properties may be annexed under a variety of methods, including the 100 percent method, in which 100 percent of affected property owners in an area seek to have their property annexed by signing a petition; and the 60 percent method, in which petitioners owning at least 60 percent of the property to be annexed, and at least 60 percent of the voters in an area, seek the annexation. Property can be annexed by the General Assembly through local legislation. Cities can also annex unincorporated islands totally surrounded by the city.

In other news, a presentation on the restoration of historic Porter Memorial Gymnasium, scheduled for Feb. 17, has been rescheduled to Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The historic gym was gutted by fire in October 2005. The fire left the gym's exterior brick walls standing, but nothing remains of the interior. The fire was apparently deliberately set, though no one has been arrested in the arson.