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Social Circle delays vote on annexation of Newton land

SOCIAL CIRCLE -- The Social Circle City Council voted to postpone a vote on annexing more than 112 acres of land in Newton County into the city limits, although at least one member expressed a desire to deny the petition altogether.

According to City Attorney Joe Reitman, Steven L. Walker and Staci D. Walker, executors of the estate of Ruth P. Walker and Jocelyn Scott Walker, had requested several months ago to annex into Social Circle 112.873 acres located on Social Circle Road, on the north side of Interstate 20.

Neither Steven Walker nor Staci Walker were present at Tuesday's City Council meeting, nor at the public hearings held by the Social Circle Planning and Zoning Commission on Feb. 14, but their aunt, Portia Scott, was.

She addressed the council and said that she is a co-owner of the property and was unaware of this petition for annexation until a week ago.

"This land has been in dispute since 2000," Scott said. "I would think I would have to sign something to say I want to annex into the city, but I haven't signed anything."

Scott said her mother left the land in question to her and her sister, Jocelyn Scott Walker. Scott's mother died in 1996 and her sister died two years later. Jocelyn Scott Walker's children, Steven and Staci Walker, are now listed as executor and executrix of the estate.

Portia Scott said no formal litigation on the property has ever been filed because she has not wanted to initiate a lawsuit against family, but the estate has never been settled.

"I'm not necessarily against or for this, but the land is in dispute," Scott said. "I have no map and I don't even know exactly where it is, but I do know I pay taxes to Newton County and I am a co-heir."

Reitman said his research showed that the Walkers were the proper parties to bring the application for annexation. With the recommendation of the Social Circle Planning and Zoning Commission for approval, Reitman said this petition "is ripe for a vote."

"No, this is not ripe for a vote," Scott responded. "There has not been a lawsuit filed, but there will be if necessary."

Reitman recommended that the City Council vote on the annexation with a contingency that it would be annulled if it were proven that the land was in legal dispute.

"The executor of the estate has control of this land," the city attorney said.

Councilman Steve Shelton said there were too many questions surrounding the property and was uncomfortable moving forward.

Again, Reitman said those concerns could be allayed if they voted for annexation with contingencies.

Councilwoman Angela Porter pointed out the City Council had passed a resolution a few years ago that it would not annex land of anyone who did not want to be annexed.

"Here we have one because it is not settled," she said. "My question is, why would we proceed?"

Shelton made a motion to table the annexation until some of these issues could be clarified.

The attorney recommended tabling it for a time certain, for 30 or 60 days, for example, to keep it open.

"I don't know if tabling it will even work," said Traysa Price, who represents District 1 on the City Council. "I don't feel comfortable even hearing this. The family needs to work it out first."

Shelton said he was concerned that the petitioners, Steven and Staci Walker, were not present.

"I started to make a motion to deny this," he said and the crowd responded with applause. "I make a motion to table this for two months and see where it stands then."

The motion was approved