Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Residents Criticize Annex Plan St. Marys Council Delays Vote over Camden Lawsuit Threat

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Residents Criticize Annex Plan St. Marys Council Delays Vote over Camden Lawsuit Threat

Article excerpt

ST. MARYS -- The City Council is facing two important votes very soon.

The first one comes tonight when the council holds its final public hearing on a proposed 40 percent increase to the city property tax rate.

The second vote will come next month when the council decides whether to annex an unincorporated 10-street area -- a plan that has many who live in the area upset and brought a threatened lawsuit from Camden County officials.

Council members had planned to vote Monday night to forcibly annex the area, but the vote was delayed because of the lawsuit.

Council members announced their decision to delay the vote after briefly meeting in closed executive session to discuss the county's claims that the city had not officially notified the county prior to the vote.

A mostly hostile crowd of more than 70 people opposed to annexation applauded after the announcement. But their happiness may be short-lived.

City officials say they will vote on the issue at a special meeting Dec. 20. The delay will give the city enough time to formally notify the county in writing and to provide maps showing the specific parcels of land that will be annexed, Mayor Jerry Brandon said.

Brandon, when asked by an audience member which of the six council members in favor of annexation, said, "I think we all are."

Opponents have shown up in force at City Council and County Commission meetings since they were notified by mail this month.

Despite the opposition, city officials said the residents already get free city services such as police and fire protection, including the use of city fire hydrants. It's unfair to the city's 15,000 taxpayers to provide services to county residents, Brandon said.

The audience was asked not to address the annexation issue because of the decision to delay the vote. Those comments will be taken at the Dec. 20 meeting, city officials said.

But the residents had plenty to say during a public hearing to discuss the proposed 2-mill tax hike.

Resident Maria Rhone, who lives in the proposed annexation area, said she doesn't want other proposals passed by the council. …

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