City annexation soundly defeated
Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 8:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 8:14 p.m.
For the second time in three years, a Gainesville annexation referendum was soundly defeated.
On Tuesday, voters in the unincorporated area of Precinct 40 rejected annexation into the city with approximately 90 percent opposition.
The area targeted for annexation stretched from the west side of Northwest 55th Street to Interstate 75 and from Newberry Road to Northwest 23rd Avenue. In the neighborhoods that stretch north to Northwest 23rd, some residents organized in opposition. Signs reading “vote no annexation” popped up in yards and along streets in the area.
Leaving the voting precinct at the University City Church Of Christ on Tuesday , University Acres resident Greg Howard said he opposed the annexation, and “the main reason is our taxes are going to go up plain and simple.”
Property taxes in the city are approximately one mill -- or $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value -- higher than in the unincorporated county. The city also levies a fire assessment and a stormwater fee, while the county has neither. On the other hand, annexation would have eliminated the surcharges tacked onto the bills of Gainesville Regional Utilities customers outside the city limits.
Howard said there was also resentment of the fact the City Commission put the annexation referendum on the ballot before approaching residents and scheduling community meetings to see if there was support.
“There’s a lot of anger about the way it was just shoved at us,” he said.
There were residents who supported annexation. Aleasha Larkins lives in a rented home with a septic tank and was hopeful annexation might bring city sewer. She said an increase in property taxes would not directly affect her because she rents and she would like to have the GRU surcharge eliminated from her utility bills.
Sarah Sanders described in detail overgrown and unkempt yards near her home. She supported annexation because she felt the city’s code enforcement officers would be more aggressive in addressing those issues.
The city’s last annexation referendum in 2009 focused east of Gainesville and failed with 93 percent opposition. As it stands, the City Commission is considering another annexation effort in the spring -- two separate referendums for the areas of voting Precinct 22 in the unincorporated county.
But city commissioners already indicated before Tuesday that they might take a different approach to future annexation efforts. Toward the end of their Oct. 18 meeting, they discussed the need to reach out to residents to measure or try to build support before voting to put an annexation referendum on the ballot.
“One of the things I’ve heard about this current annexation is we didn’t do the outreach prior,” Mayor Craig Lowe said at that meeting.