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Land owners apply for annexation
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A new group of Newton County landowners has applied to be annexed into Social Circle, though their combined acreage is considerably less than the 1,150 acres the city sought to annex from the county two years ago.

At Tuesday's Social Circle City Council meeting, a petition for the annexation of approximately 334 acres of land along U.S. Highway 278 and Interstate 20 was accepted by the council for their records.

"It has always been a policy of this council, at least as long as I've been mayor, to only annex at the request of the property owners," said Social Circle Mayor Jim Burgess at the meeting.

The large majority of the proposed annexed acreage is in Newton County said Social Circle City Attorney Joe Reitman, though a portion of it also lies in Walton County. The acreage occupies the eastern quarter of the land annexed in 2006. The annexation was repealed by the city in March in the face of a county lawsuit.

"It's a very small parcel compared to what was proposed to be annexed in 2006," Reitman said.

While the 2006 annexation of the 1,150 acres received a more intensive rezoning of mixed-use business park (now repealed), the landowners this time are requesting a rezoning to Agriculture District 2. According to Social Circle's newly approved zoning ordinance, AG-2 districts are composed of "relatively large acreage, low-density developments of single-family dwellings."

The acreage is owned by five landowners and includes a handful of parcels in varying sizes. One of the landowners, Little River Ventures LLC, was one of the original landowners to file for annexation in 2006. Little River owns the large majority of the land proposed for annexation - approximately 320 acres - according to Reitman

Some of the other parcels are only 1 acre. Reitman described all of the parcels as being contiguous.

"Basically the landowners that have come in with the smaller lots would be infill," Reitman said. "Those are now included so it will be a clean line all the way along [U.S.] Highway 278 without any gaps."

In the first annexation the unincorporated islands created by the annexation, which are illegal in Georgia, were strongly objected to by the county and cited by the city as a reason for repealing the annexation because they wanted it to be "beyond reproach."

The council's acknowledgment of the petition is only the first in a series of steps that must take place before Social Circle can annex the land. The city will be formally notifying the Newton and Walton County Boards of Commissioners of the application in the next few days.

According to the city's new annexation procedure, if it does annex the land, it may not change the zoning of the land to a more intense density than that stated in the official notice of the annexation for one year.

It is not known whether the annexation would need to be reviewed by a Development of Regional Impact study by the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center. According to the RDC, only development projects that are likely to have an impact beyond the host local government's jurisdiction are subject to review by DRI.

Jenny Long contributed to this report