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Social Circle offers joint land planning
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At a closed meeting in October, the Social Circle City Council offered joint land use planning in any future annexations if Newton County would agree to drop its lawsuit against the city.

Though the council did not offer to nullify its fall 2006 annexation of 1,150 acres of Newton County land, which instigated the county's December, 2006 lawsuit, they did offer joint-pre-planning and decision making between county and city governments for any future land annexations and the promise the city would not annex any more land south of Interstate-20 without the consent of the Newton County Board of Commissioners.

The contents of Social Circle's six point presentation to the BOC last year were released by Social Circle Mayor Jim Burgess at the end of last week.

Burgess said he decided to release the document, at the request of local media, because the BOC had thus far failed to respond to the council's presentation.

"The county never responded to me," Burgess said. "I figured I've waited a reasonable amount of time."

The council's presentation also included a promise that it would not annex any territory north of I-20 without the 100 percent agreement of affected property owners.

"I felt that anything north of I-20 was more logically a part of our city," Burgess said. "I don't really see us growing across I-20."

The city council offered to work with the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority in the development and implementation of a joint regional waste water treatment facility to treat discharge before it enters the Little River.

In their presentation the council said they would agree to work with the county on a cooperative agreement for a shared water supply through financial participation in the county's Bear Creek Reservoir project.

Finally the council said it would support the implementation of the scenic highway overlay on Ga. Highway 11 and would work with the county on the development and implementation of cooperative public safety and service agreements in the areas of police, fire protection and emergency services.

"We put a lot on the table," Burgess said.

Newton County Attorney Tommy Craig said he interpreted the council's proposal as the council's desire to return to friendly relations with the BOC while still keeping the 1,150 acres of disputed land.

"Social Circle laid out in that presentation a proposal that we meet and work toward some accommodation that would allow Social Circle the ability to let its annexation stand and enjoy friendly relations with Newton County," Craig said.

Craig said he did not respond to the council's proposal because the majority of the BOC was not in favor of returning to friendly relations with Social Circle until the matter of the annexation had been settled in court or if the council were to voluntarily agree to nullify its annexation.

"If the board wants to resist Social Circle's annexation then I have to try to help them," Craig said. "If they want to negotiate some accommodation with Social Circle then I would help them. Right now, my instructions are to resist."

In response to a new motion filed by Social Circle City Attorney Joe Reitman last month to dismiss the county's lawsuit, the county responded last week with a motion requesting summary judgment in the case. If granted summary judgment Superior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn would rule on the lawsuit in a single hearing. There would be no jury.

Reitman said he also plans to also file a motion seeking summary judgment.

In its lawsuit suit, the county claims Social Circle violated its own annexation laws as well as those of the county and Georgia by annexing the land. The city has responded that the county's lawsuit is without merit and should be dismissed.