Bobby Winters

Bobby Winters

With a developer's annexation and zoning requests waiting in limbo, Catoosa County's Board of Commissioners recently gave the city of Fort Oglethorpe a pass after it failed to notify the county of the proposed annexation.

On Oct. 23, Justin Hunt of HTH Development appeared in front of the Fort Oglethorpe City Council regarding an 18-acre piece of land he wanted to annex into the city for a planned 60-home development. Hunt also requested that the current R-1 property be rezoned to R-5.

After negative feedback, and traffic and stormwater concerns were presented by residents, the requests were tabled in favor of a traffic study being done along Steele Road and the adjoining Mack Smith Road.

That meeting also included Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Earl Gray telling one concerned resident that the city didn't have to notify the county of potential annexation, a statement that was not accurate.

County resident Cherise Miller asked if the county had been notified about Hunt's proposed annexation.

"Not to my knowledge, but we would not have to notify," Gray said.

"You don't have to notify them?" Miller asked.

"We would not have to notify them if we're annexing a piece of property," Gray replied.

That issue was addressed by County Attorney Chad Young during the Nov. 7 commission meeting when he explained that cities are required to notify the county within five days of receiving an annexation application.

"When the city receives the application, they're supposed to send the county a notice via certified mail within five days, and with that notice, they're supposed to provide a map of the property and the annexation application," Young explained. "The city missed that deadline. They actually propose to consider this matter at their meeting on Nov. 13, but we (the county) did not receive this until Nov. 2. The application was filed back on Aug. 4, so obviously, we did not get notice within that five-day time period. The city has requested that the county waive that five-day notice period."

With the city looking to address the traffic concern findings and vote on the matter Monday night, Nov. 13, the Commission had two options: let it slide, or force the city to go through the entire process over again from scratch.

"If the board approves this, you would not be waiving any rights you have to object, you'd simply be waiving that five-day notice timeframe that would avoid the city having to go back to the beginning and start over again with the process," Young explained. "You're voting on the very limited issue of having the city start back from the beginning."

Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins and City Attorney Robert Stultz were at the commission meeting to speak on the city missing the deadline.

"We would appreciate any leniency you all may have, and truly, it was our honest mistake," Payne-Simpkins said.

The board ultimately opted to approve the waiver by a 3-2 vote, with commissioners Ray Johnson and Bobby Winters voting no.

Winters says he's unsure of why Hunt is so eager to move into the city from the county, and threw out claims of unorthodox practices going on as it pertains to annexation.

"I'm curious why they want to annex it into Fort Oglethorpe, it's my district, and I'm never told about nothing, and I think it's nothing but corruption," Winters said. "What is the trick to putting it into Fort Oglethorpe? The county is wide open. We're supposed to be together here...the roads...are they going to do a lot of shady stuff over there like they have been? I mean, I see shady stuff going on over there all the time. As a matter of fact there's one going on on the corner of Dietz Road and 2A (Battlefield Parkway) right now...biggest mess I've ever seen. I've been here for 73 years...ain't nothing this lawyer can tell me, ain't nothing that city manager can tell me...I ride around and see this stuff all the time. I want to work with Fort Oglethorpe, but somebody needs to talk. I'm elected to that district, but they just push me away."

Chairman Steven Henry says the hiccup gave the city and county the opportunity to discuss annexation issues, a conversation that's been needed.

"We very rarely ever have a platform to discuss annexation...this is kind of a unique opportunity," Henry said. "One thing that concerns us is traffic. I'd like to see some kind of solution for the traffic on Mack Smith and Steele Road, a round-a-bout or something. I'd like a little better communication all the way around. I'm glad y'all messed up so we could have this conversation."

The Fort Oglethorpe City Council will revisit Hunts requests during its meeting Monday night, Nov. 13.

Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009. He can be reached at The Catoosa County News office at 706-935-2621 and by email at acook@npco.com.