Lowndes County responds to City of Valdosta concerning SDS, annexation

| January 17, 2017

 

LOWNDES Co. – Lowndes County officials have released a statement seeking to clarify the county’s position on the Service Delivery Strategy disagreement with its municipalities and to again claim that the City of Valdosta plans to annex unincorporated county residents and businesses who seek Valdosta water and sewage service.

Lowndes County officials released a statement on January 5 claiming the City of Valdosta had an “intent” to annex portions of unincorporated Lowndes County.

City of Valdosta officials responded with their own statement stating annexation is not part of SDS negotiations.

Lowndes County has issued the following statement in response:

  • Lowndes County provides accurate information related to statements made by the City of Valdosta in the city’s press release of January 11, 2017
  • Lowndes County, Georgia – In an effort to clarify statements made by the City of Valdosta regarding service delivery law, the City of Valdosta’s local ordinances and operating procedures, Lowndes County is providing the following information.
  • From Valdosta on January 11-All Cities in Lowndes County are in Agreement
  • Dasher, Hahira, Lake Park, Remerton and Valdosta —which are all a part of Lowndes County and make up approximately 55% of the county’s population—are all in agreement that the expired 2008 SDS agreement must be revised to meet the current needs and those anticipated over the next 10 years. This is to ensure that funding and tax equity is provided to all county citizens by eliminating double taxation and reducing the unnecessary duplication of governmental services, as is the purpose of the SDS. View State of Georgia SDS Law.
  • Lowndes County-“The service delivery law specifically says the existing agreement “shall remain in effect until revised”. Because it has not been revised, it remains in effect. This is Georgia law. OCGA § 36-70-25.1(f). The agreement itself also expressly says it shall remain in effect until revised by the parties to it.
  • The existing agreement meets current and anticipated needs. In addition, the Department of Community Affairs verified the existing agreement meets the requirements of the service delivery law. It does not need to be revised.
  • Valdosta’s proposals made before and after mediation for the provision of water and sewer services would actually create competition between local governments and duplication of governmental services. This is contrary to the specified intent and criteria of the service delivery law. 
  • Other changes Valdosta proposed before mediation would benefit Valdosta financially but at the expense of residents and property owners outside the cities. This is not the purpose of the service delivery law.”
  • From Valdosta on January 11-Annexation is NOT a Part of the SDS
  • According to Georgia law, annexation originates with a property owner. When a property owner seeks annexation, it is normally to receive a higher level of service offered by the adjacent city that is not available from the county. Furthermore, Lowndes County and all counties always have a right to object to a property owner’s request to annex his or her property into a city. One of the more sacred rights in our country is our personal right to own property. Annexation is not part of the SDS. It is a process that begins with a property owner making a formal request for annexation, which can only be considered if the property touches a city and has compatible land use plans with both the county and city. Annexation can occur only after a recommendation from the Planning Commission, a public hearing and review by the county with the right to object, and lastly, a public hearing and approval by the city. View O.C.G.A. Title 36, Chapter 36, Annexation of Territory.
  • Lowndes County-“Valdosta links annexation and service delivery through its policy that it will not deliver water and sewer service to a property outside the city unless the owner agrees to his property being annexed.
  • Under Valdosta’s proposals, residents and other property owners in areas into which Valdosta extends service will be forced to agree to annex their property into the City in order to receive public water and sewer service even though they do not otherwise want their property annexed into the City.
  • The County’s right to object to a proposed annexation is very limited. The County can object only because of a burden or demand upon the County related to a proposed change in zoning or land use or a proposed increase in density. OCGA § 36-36-113.”
  • From Valdosta on January 11-All Lowndes County Governments are Out of Compliance
  • Lowndes County is the only local government to not publicly vote on and approve a temporary extension of the existing SDS, making all local governments ineligible to receive state funding or permits needed to serve our local citizens. Dasher, Hahira, Lake Park, Remerton and Valdosta all voted to temporarily extend the SDS to keep the local governments in compliance with state law. Lowndes County is not only in disagreement with all of the cities, it is also in disagreement with the state, having claimed it is not out of compliance despite all the local governments receiving a written notice otherwise. A list of local governments in Georgia in non-compliance is posted on the Georgia Department of Community Affairs website. View DCA Local Government Compliance Status.
  • Lowndes County-“Based on Georgia law, the County and cities remain eligible for state funding and permits. This is because the existing agreement remains in effect and the County and cities therefore remain included in a department verified strategy. This is Georgia law. OCGA § 36-70-27.
  • DCA has not said its notice is authorized by Georgia law.”
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