Board praises legislation to give county more say in city annexations

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett's Board of Commissioners on Tuesday passed a resolution supporting a bill that would give the county government more control over local land.

It's a debate pitting commissioners against mayors.

"We're just trying to get a level playing field. Right now it's unilateral," said District 3 Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, who has been feuding with Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks over a proposed rezoning.

While property taxes only become an issue when a city has its own school district, such as Buford, District 1's Lorraine Green said the county's power to control land use is important when it is providing services such as fire, police, water and sewer.

If a city annexes land and then agrees to allow more homes to be built, the county has to carry the burden, she said.

"I'm concerned about the services we have to provide that we did not budget for," Green said.

While the county was given power to object to annexations during the last term of the General Assembly, the final decision was left with cities.

On Tuesday, a House subcommittee debated a new proposal to give counties a larger role in the decision making process.

While the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners is in favor of House Bill 962, both Buford and Dacula city councils have passed resolutions condemning the bill.

"I'm against it because if the county has totality, there will never be another annexation in Gwinnett County," Wilbanks said. "They've objected to every one we've done except one."

The quarrel between Wilbanks and Beaudreau concerned a proposed annexation that would have added more homes to a tract of land Beaudreau had worked to rezone just last year.

Wilbanks said the applicant withdrew the plan, which would have been on the city's schedule next week.

"If Mr. Beaudreau had let the system work, it usually works well," Wilbanks said of the case. "I think it's a property rights issue, and if you start dealing with property rights, you get on a slippery slope."