Cities grab land at steady rate

LAWRENCEVILLE - Cities in Gwinnett County are on track to annex roughly the same amount of land in 2005 as they did in 2004.

Through last week they had taken in 1,000 acres of land that had previously been in the unincorporated county. Another batch of annexations totaling 93 acres are still pending, according to the county Planning and Development Department.

"It looks like it is going to be a little bit more than last year, but not a great deal more," said David Gill, a county long-range planner.

Leading the way this year was Dacula, which added 420 acres to its boundaries after property owners filed annexation requests.

That amount is more than double the acreage taken in last year by the city beside Ga. Highway 316.

Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks was quick to point out the city only takes in land after the owners request it, and the city does not ask people to seek annexation.

"If it is a property that makes sense for us to annex and it works good for the city and the community, then we go ahead and annex it," Wilbanks said.

Norcross is on track to finish a distant second with 250 acres, followed by Sugar Hill at 160 acres, Loganville with 37 acres, Buford at 36 acres and Grayson with 32 acres.

Most of the land annexed into Norcross was put there by the state Legislature at the city's request. The action moved two schools inside the city limits.

Property owners request annexation for a number of reasons, Wilbanks said, but many times it is developers who want to build subdivisions or shopping centers.

While rezonings can take up to a year in the unincorporated county, the turnaround time in some municipalities is as short as two months.

Wilbanks said he expects Dacula to see more annexation requests in 2006 as growth and development continues spreading through east Gwinnett and into counties farther out.

Gill expressed a similar sentiment.

"I think Dacula's level of activity is significant," Gill said. "It shows growth and development pressures moving into that eastern part of the county.

"Of course," Gill added, "at any one time the annexation philosophy of the city is mainly going to be a reflection of their mayor and council. I think over time some mayors and councils have been more pro-annexation than other cities."

Unincorporated Gwinnett is in no danger of being gobbled up by the 15 cities entirely are partially inside its borders. The cities comprise about 20 percent of the county's land. The rest is unincorporated, Gill said.