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17 June 2016

Atlanta Advances Annexation Petitions Over Objections from Fulton County Commissioners

Atlanta's annexation battles with Fulton County make one thing definitively clear.

Georgia's 159 counties have very few tools to stop a city from expanding its borders.

This lesson was on full display at recent meetings of both the Fulton County Commission and the Atlanta City Council Finance/Executive Committee.

"We're voting on annexations right now," Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves said at the 15 June 2016 Board of Commissioners meeting. "If we vote to approve the objection, does it stop the annexation process?"

"If you approve the annexation [objection], that sends it to arbitration. The arbitration board has the ability to impose conditions on the annexation to address the issues you've raised. They do not have the ability to deny [the annexation]," replied Fulton County Attorney Patrise Perkins Hooker.

Jon West, a Senior Planner in the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Office of Planning and Environmental Management, agreed with the Fulton County Attorney's assessment of the law.

"The annexation arbitration process isn't designed to allow a county government to halt an annexation," West said. "Instead, the process provides an opportunity for a group of neutrals to listen to both sides of the argument."

The DCA is responsible for administering the appointment of arbitration panels in connection with annexation disputes.

"The arbitration panel can, if it chooses, impose restrictions on the manner in which newly annexed land can be developed (which only last for one year) to help ease the burden that the annexation places upon the county," West continued.

Fulton County Commissioners objected to several annexations, sending the dispute to arbitration. The Atlanta City Council Finance/Executive Committee ignored the county's objections, however.

On 15 June 2016, the Finance/Executive Committee unanimously approved a series of annexation petitions --including some objected to by Fulton County Commissioners-- setting up a final vote on annexation at the Atlanta City Council's 20 June 2016 meeting.