Tuesday, February 20, 2024

North High Shoals Town Council Tables Again Decision On Deannexation Petition

***Item Now On March 18 Agenda***

On the recommendation of Mayor Stephen Goad, the North High Shoals Council voted on Monday night to table for a second time the request by Townley Family Partnership LLLP to deannex 175.8 acres from the city.

Council Members Eric Carlson, Hilda Kurtz, Eric Wright, and Meagan Cundiff voted in favor of the motion to table the request, and Council Member Fred Johnson abstained.

Goad told the Council before the vote that Town Attorney Joe Reitman needed more time to respond to the 119-page document that attorney David Ellison, representing the Townley Family Partnership, had submitted only a few hours before the Council met on Jan. 22.

On Reitman’s recommendation, the Council voted unanimously at that meeting to table the deannexation petition submitted by the Townley Family Partnership.

Reitman did not attend the Council meeting on Monday.

Ellison attended the meeting on Monday but was not offered an opportunity to speak.

Ellison and another person with him stood up and left the meeting just after the Council voted to table a decision on the deannexation request.

Goad’s Recommendation

“I am of the opinion here that we still have not had enough time to research all of the cases that Mr. Ellison brought forward, and the Council should table it,” Goad said as he turned to the deannexation item about a third of the way through the Monday meeting.

Wright Seconds Motion To Table 2/19/2024

“It is entirely up to the Council,” he said. “That’s my opinion. I don’t have a vote.”

Council Member Carlson made the motion to table the decision until the March 18 meeting, and Council Member Wright seconded.

“This is a big issue. This is a high stakes issue,” Council Member Kurtz said. “I think due diligence here is really essential.”

“So hearing from our attorney that he has not had the time to go through all of the materials that were provided to him is definitely for me reason not to vote,” she said.

Johnson did not comment during the discussion and said he was abstaining from the vote.

Discussion Of Timing At Jan. 22 Meeting

Reitman had recommended to Council at that Jan. 22 meeting that it table the Townley request until he had had more time to review the documents submitted by Ellison before the meeting.

“My read of the statute is that it doesn’t given guidance (on when a decision must be made) and therefore there is reasonable discretion,” he told Council.

“I wouldn’t put it off until March or April,” he continued. “I think third Monday in February is reasonable.” Monday was that date.

“If David objects to that, I think we might have an intermediary approach of a special meeting, maybe an earlier date,” Reitman said at the Jan. 22 meeting. “David, I don’t mind your being heard on this.”

“We have a right to a decision in a reasonable period of time,” Ellison said. “And we would object to any decision that is not rendered within a reasonable period of time.”

“Understood. Thank you sir,” Reitman replied.

Ellison’s Submission

The document Ellison submitted on Jan. 22 consists of an eight-page letter and a long list of supporting documents.

Ellison (In Dark Suit) At Meeting 2/19/2024

The letter is largely redundant with what Ellison said in his comments before the Council on Jan. 22.

In the letter, and in the presentation on Jan. 22, Ellison included a large number of legal citations.

At the meeting in January, Ellison acknowledged that many of the court cases he was citing were not from Georgia. 

The deannexation law passed the Georgia General Assembly on March 29 of last year, the final day of the legislative session. 

The bill contains three unrelated components that prohibit local governments from banning “gasoline-powered leaf blowers,” ban local governments from adopting a policy restricting “type or source of energy or fuel,” and change the law on municipal annexation of territory to include the procedures for deannexation.

Ellison included in his letter references to cases from Utah, South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois, West Virginia, and other jurisdictions.

Key Distinction

Key to Ellison’s argument in the letter is the assertion that “The Town is unquestionably acting in a quasi-judicial capacity when considering this Petition.”

The U.S. Supreme Court “has long held that ‘due process demands impartiality on the part of those who function in judicial or quasi-judicial capacities,’” Ellison wrote.

“All things considered, Townley believes a proper application of O.C.G.A. 36-36-131(a) to the current record requests prompt approval of its Petition,” the letter states, referring to the Georgia law passed in March.

“The burden is on the Town to find detriment to the area remaining the municipality, and no fair and impartial board could reasonable make such a finding based on this record.” The word “in” seems to have been dropped from the sentence.

The document includes a picture of a bridge across a creek, a letter from the Georgia Environmental Protection Agency, maps of a proposed pond prepared by Carter Engineering, the Oconee County Character Area Map, and sections of the county’s Unified Development Code.

Also included are tax documents for the Townley property, a copy of the North High Shoals Budget for the last fiscal year, a traffic study prepared for Carter Engineering, public notices for the Jan. 22 hearing before Council, and wastewater maps for the county.

The document does not include any reference to the plans that Carter Engineering had submitted to and then withdrew from the county for a 32-lot subdivision called Apalachee Estates on part of the Townley property, and Ellison tried to keep a plat from that subdivision from being entered by a citizen into the record at the Jan. 22 meeting.

In rebutting the comments of the citizens at that meeting, Ellison said “regardless of why Mr. Townley wishes to deannex, it doesn’t matter. Based on this record and this evidence, the standard’s not been met. So the only appropriate decision is to grant this petition.”


The video below is of the full meeting of the North High Schools Mayor and Council on Feb. 19, 2024.

Discussion of deannexation begins at 24:46 in the video.

Prior to that discussion, the Council vote to rescind an earlier agreement for sidewalk planning and surveying and solicit new bids for that work.

Following the discussion of deannexation the Council discussed use of state funds for improvements to Hillsboro Road, Jefferson Road, and Plantation Road.

Council also decided to hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. on March 18 about changes in Council meetings times.

The regular meeting of the Council, scheduled for 7:30 p.m., will follow the hearing.

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