Published Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Coweta's 'hands tied' over Sharpsburg annexation

By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL

sarah@newnan.com

The town of Sharpsburg is planning to annex four tracts of land, totaling 129 acres. 

Tuesday night, the Coweta County Board of Commissioners voted 3 to 1 to not object to the town's annexation proposal. 

Under state law, commonly referred to as House Bill 2, the county cannot object to the annexation because Sharpsburg's plans don't meet the criteria for objection. 

"Basically, our hands are totally tied," said Commissioner Paul Poole, who represents the First District, which includes Sharpsburg. 

"Yes sir," said Zoning Administrator Angela White. 

Two of the tracts border Cole Street, on the west side of Hwy. 16, and will abut the property previously annexed for the OakHall development. 

The other two tracts are on Hwy. 54. An 18.84-acre tract is on the east side of Hwy. 54, and almost touches the Turin City limits. 

The fourth tract is a 0.39-acre tract on the northern end of town. 

On a consolidated map of the four annexations shown to the commissioners at Tuesday night's meeting, the 18.84-acre tract appears to touch the Turin city limits. 

County Attorney Jerry Ann Conner asked if the annexation would create an "unincorporated island," which is illegal. 

It won't, said White, because there is a 50-foot strip of unincorporated land between the proposed annexation and the Turin City limits. Fifty feet is the minimum separation required by state law. 

The properties will be zoned under Sharpsburg's R1A zoning. 

They are currently zoned Rural Conservation. The R1A zoning is compatible with the county's RC zoning. However, "they have set theirs specifically as a holding zoning during their new annexations," said White. 

Under state law, the zoning can't be changed for at least one year. 

"After a year they can totally change it," said Poole. 

"We do ask, just out of courtesy to the citizens, that we be notified of any rezoning or conditional uses," said White. 

Under HB 2, for a county to object to an annexation, the proposal must result in a substantial change in the intensity of an allowable use or a change to a significantly different allowable use and the intensity of the residential use in the proposed zoning must be substantially greater than in the current zoning, which it is not. Under RC, homes can be built on 1.6-acre lots, under certain conditions. R1A has a 1.5-acre lot minimum. 

In addition, the proposed uses must differ substantially from the uses suggested for the property in the county's comprehensive land use plan or permitted under the zoning ordinance. 

The law created by HB 2 is "very strong in favor of the municipalities," said White. 

"That really ties our hands, doesn't it?" asked Poole. 

White said that they hope that municipalities will be good stewards. 

Poole made a motion that the county not object "because our hands are tied." Poole, Chairman Rodney Brooks, and Commissioner Al Smith voted in favor.

Commissioner Bob Blackburn voted against the motion. Commissioner Tim Lassetter was not in attendance. 

"I wish the legislators would work on this," Poole said of the state's annexation law. "We make our plans" for land that is in the county, he said, and annexations can really disrupt the future planning. "I think we should be able to have more input in this than we have," Poole said. 

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