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Friday September 4th, 2015 6:25AM

Gainesville inches closer to annexation of 197 acres

By Bill Johnson
GAINESVILLE -- Despite the plea of several property owners and a no vote in a morning session of the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board, city council members inched closer to the annexation of 115 parcels and 197 acres into the city today.

After the first reading, council members took two votes. First the council voted 4-1 to approve the annexation with Councilman George Wangemann opposed. Council then voted 4-1 to annex the property as currently zoned.

A second reading is set for Dec. 18.

City officials say the annexation will better define the city boundaries, provide a more consistent appearance to its gateway corridors and streamline response by police and fire department emergency services.

But half a dozen property owners did not agree.

John Jones, owner of Office Pros on Browns Bridge Road, called the decision devastating and compared it to the Boston Tea Party.

"It's taxation without representation," he said. "I don't live in the city so I don't get a vote. There is no logical reason why they should increase taxes 25 percent on 115 properties."

Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras said, "I always vote what I believe is best for every single person in the city of Gainesville. I'm comfortable with my decision."

Attorney Abb Hayes, who represents SC Gainesville, LLC, owners of the Big Lots shopping center, said his client's major objection is the tax increase.

"It's a $16,000 tax increase for the property my client owns."

Jones and Hayes also appeared Tuesday morning before the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board, asking that body to turn down the city's request. See link to earlier story.

State law allows for the annexation of such properties without the consent of the owners.

MALL TAD APPROVED

City Council had no trouble voting unanimously on first reading to create a Tax Allocation District for Lakeshore Mall's redevelopment plan.

Mayor Danny Dunagan said the Mall's tax value has dropped over the years.

"We're very excited about the Mall and the future of the Mall," Dunagan said. "At one time that mall was valued at over $30-million; today it's valued at $6-million. The taxes have come down dramatically, but with these improvements and the rebuilding of the Mall that evaluation will go up."

The TAD would fund $2.1-million in improvements on a request from the Mall's new owners, the Garrison Investment Group.

The Mayor said once the improvement investment is paid off through the TAD, the city receives all the taxes levied on the property.
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