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31 October 2014

Citizen-led Effort to Annex into Chattahoochee Hills Falls 80 Votes Short of State Mandate

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The people-powered petition to bring 9,400 acres into the City of Chattahoochee Hills was 80 voters short of meeting the threshold required for annexation.

Members of the Chattahoochee Hills Planning Commission met, 30 October, to hold the first public hearing on annexing 9,400 acres into the south metro municipality. City Attorney Rick Lindsey told the Planning Commission they could not move forward on the annexation petition, because it did not comply with the 60/60 state mandate.

(Chattahoochee Hills Planning Commission members hear from the public about the proposed annexation of 9,400 acres.)
Under Georgia law, there are three ways for citizens to join an existing city -- the 100% method, the 60% method, and the resolution and referendum method.

The 60% method requires 60% of landowners and 60% of registered voters to sign a petition requesting annexation by the city.

City Planner Mike Morton, who processed the citizens' annexation petition, said 60% of the landowners had signed the document. But 60% of the registered voters did not. The petition was 80 voters short of 60%.

While disappointing to those who organized the annexation petition drive, the news that they were 80 voters short did not seem to deter those wanting to join the City of Chattahoochee Hills.

Residents supporting annexation into Chattahoochee Hills peppered City Attorney Rick Lindsey, City Planner Mike Morton, and Mayor Tom Reed with questions on how the process continues.

Planning Commission Chairman Alan Merrill said he expects the annexation petition to be re-submitted to the city again in the future.

State Representative LaDawn Blackett Jones (D - Atlanta), a lawmaker who supports creating a new city out of the remaining unincorporated land in south Fulton County, attended the Planning Commission meeting and urged residents to wait on their move to join Chattahoochee Hills.

"To be very clear, anyone who would like to move into Chatt Hills or Palmetto or Florida, I have absolutely nothing against it," Jones said. "I think that is your right as citizens. I ask that you wait."

Rep. Jones told locals she plans on re-introducing the bill to create the city of South Fulton, but expressed a concern that if too many areas annex out, the proposed city of South Fulton won't be created.

"Continue to collect your petitions. Continue to do what you all are doing to make your plans, but I don't want the unintended consequence of you all moving out to make it so we can't create the city of South Fulton," Jones said. "Not because of the feasibility, but because of the changes and the legislative process."