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19 April 2015

Two South Fulton Communities Ask Atlanta to Annex $145 Million Worth of Residential Property

The proposal to create a new city out of unincorporated south Fulton County, already on shaky ground, may be on its way to the morgue.

A set of annexation petitions from the Loch Lomond and Sandtown communities could severely undermine the proposed city of South Fulton's financial viability, if the petitions are ultimately approved by the Atlanta City Council.

Through open records requests, Georgia Unfiltered learned that Atlanta sent a notice to Fulton County informing them of the city's intent to annex approximately 1,094.30 acres (see maps below). The notice was dated 8 April 2015.

Proposed ATL Annexation of Loch Lomond & Sandtown

Some of unincorporated south Fulton's wealthiest communities, with homes approaching the two- and three-hundred thousand dollar range according to Fulton County property records, are included in the land area seeking to join Atlanta. Randolph Elementary School, Sandtown Middle School, Sandtown Park and Gymnasium are also part of the annexation petition. All told, 820 properties are collectively valued at $145,348,105.

The loss of so many high-value properties would almost certainly force those pushing for a new city of South Fulton to conduct a new feasibility study, measuring the proposed municipality's ability to stand on its own two feet financially.

Atlanta's notice to Fulton County is the third step of the annexation process.

The first step involved land owners and registered voters signing a petition asking Atlanta to annex the area. 60% of the land owners and 60% of the registered voters is the state-mandated threshold for an annexation request to move forward. Georgia law requires the city to verify the minimum petition threshold was met, before informing the county of the people's annexation request.

Fulton County now has thirty days to file an objection to the people's petition. County commissioners are expected to take up the petition at its 6 May 2015 meeting, two days before the thirty day deadline is reached.

According to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), Fulton County can only object to the Loch Lomond and Sandtown annexation requests because of a material increase in burden upon the county directly related to any one or more of the following: (1) The proposed change in zoning or land use; (2) Proposed increase in density; and (3) Infrastructure demands related to the proposed change in zoning or land use.

If Fulton County objects, the annexation is not stopped, however. The proposed annexation would then go before a five-member arbitration panel to determine if Fulton County's objection is valid, and to mediate any differences between the county and Atlanta.

The Arbitration Handbook, published by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) and the Georgia Municipal Association, says the arbitration panel "is not authorized to approve or deny any particular annexation proposal, but may or may not choose to attach zoning, land use or density conditions to the property in question for one year."

Atlanta says they intend to keep the current Fulton County zoning for Sandtown and Loch Lomond if the area is ultimately annexed into the city.