Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Frustrations of Annexation

I've been seeing a lot of commentary and hearing a lot of discussion about some of the upcoming high-density annexations in the works. There's some unfortunate annexation truths that are going to make it difficult to keep Fayette County the way that it is now.

Georgia law gives the cities the right to annex anytime a landowner wants.

The County Commissions in this state can object, but this blog has more power than their objections. The cities can ignore their objections and most do.

Land owners have a right to want to get the most dollars they can from their land.

Much as we'd like to see concern for neighbors win out over the almighty dollar, there's very few of us who would decide in favor of neighbors they're leaving behind. Often the land is being sold by children who've inherited a parcel - they may not live in the state and they have no reason whatsoever to desire to lose money. Given a choice between a low density subdivision in the county that might net $100,000 and a high density subdivision if annexed into a city that'll net over $500,000 is there a choice for most?

When cities reach the edge of their territory and costs are rising, property is aging and sometimes declining in value, etc., etc., etc. the city is naturally going to be open to any new stream of tax revenue.

Developers and those who make money when there's growth are like the little kid who keeps asking for a toy until he gets it. They figure out what they want then they go after it persistently. First they go to the County Commission. If they get turned down (usually they know beforehand that they'll lose) they then turn to annexation if possible.

And let's face it, most of us aren't overly concerned about what's going on across town unless it involves crime or a situation that has an immediate impact on our lives. Most don't read the local paper. Most don't go to City Council meetings. Most are just holding their own taking care of their own. Unless it's reported in a newspaper on the front page, most of us have no idea what's going two blocks away, much less on the other side of town or the county.

To keep the density to a minimum you can't have foxes guarding the hen house. You need elected officials who derive no benefit from relationships with developers. We need strong individuals who are more concerned for the county than for their own political skins. If you don't have the right people in critical positions in the cities and in the county, exceptions will be made that ultimately have high, high costs long term.

This county used to be ranked among the highest in growth prior to the current County Commission, even with the inevitable annexations over the past few years. Now it doesn't even make the charts.

Looks like that's getting ready to change. Not simply because there's going to be a new County Commission. There are a number of factors, which I'll save for another rainy day blog, that being only one (possibly, we don't yet know if the new County Commission will be as tough).

In the cycle of things, when problems get to a certain point citizen activists rise up to try and stop or slow things down. If they succeed, they go away, get back to their lives, everyone gets complacent again until problems reach a critical point again. We've been in a nice cycle of contentment. There have been some blips, but only in certain areas. Now it seems like we might be moving into a cycle of concern that will get some motivated.

No comments: