The Bethlehem Town Council will likely have more discussion at its Monday, Sept. 9 meeting of a request to annex property off Highway 316 into the town after Barrow County leaders aired their concerns about the request.
Town clerk Kathy Bridges said the council expects to again discuss a request by Harrison Mill Properties, LLC, to annex 49 acres at 788 Harrison Mill Rd. Tommy Hunter, representing the applicants, told the council at its Aug. 5 meeting that the applicants would like to build a single-family residential development with a target of 1.2 units per acre.
The property is currently in unincorporated Barrow County and has sat mostly undeveloped since the family purchased the property almost 20 years ago. Hunter said there were plans to develop it at one time prior to the Great Recession. The property sits within the county’s “316 Innovation Corridor” and is part of the county’s future land-use map, but the applicants believe development of a residential subdivision is more economically-feasible, Hunter said.
The county board of commissioners would need to approve of a de-annexation, and Hunter said the applicants would then seek to rezone the property from agricultural to residential development. Bethlehem’s zoning matters are currently done by the county.
The board of commissioners was presented with the request at its meeting on Aug. 27 but could not take any official action on the request because the county was not properly notified of it. Dan Schultz, the county’s director of planning and community development, said the notification came in writing via email, rather than the required certified mail.
Commissioners voted to send the town correspondence notifying them of the statute criteria and making them aware that if the property were brought into the town under current zoning, the town would have to wait one year to rezone the property.
Beyond that, county manager Mike Renshaw and board chairman Pat Graham raised concerns over the property being annexed because of its location within the innovation corridor for potential tech companies in the future.
“In my mind, that raises serious questions and concerns with regards to our future land-use map, which was recently adopted with municipal participation,” Renshaw said.
If Bethlehem plans to move forward with the request and issues it to the county, the county would have 30 days to formulate a response and notify them of a rejection.
Molly Esswein, an attorney for Jarrard & Davis, the county’s law firm, said a dispute between the entities over an annexation request would go through Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs. A panel would be selected with input from the county, town and state, and the sides would go through an arbitration process, Esswein said.
The town council’s meeting Monday is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 750 Manger Ave.