Savannah Lane, Part of Adjacent Alley to be Abandoned

January 14, 2014

Toccoa City Commissioners make the final decision to abandon Savannah Lane and part of an adjacent alley.

Commissioners once again heard the final reading of that proposed abandonment Monday.

The First United Methodist Church requested the abandonment, stating that they own all of the property around what is proposed to be abandoned and would like to have the area available for the possibility of future expansion.

However, some nearby residents on Walnut Street have opposed the abandonment because that road and alley provide them secondary, emergency access to their home.

The church offered an easement for such emergency access, but the opponents say that would not work.

After approving the first reading of the abandonment, commissioners tabled the second reading multiple times in order to try and allow the two sides to reach an agreement.

The Toccoa Planning Commission looked at one of those proposals from one neighbor to provide that secondary access by extending the alley or rerouting the easement; a proposal rejected by the church.

After reviewing everything again, Toccoa City Manager Billy Morse said that the Planning Commission stands by its initial recommendation to allow the abandonment.

“The abandonment would be subject to the following provision,” said Morse.  “The First United Methodist Church would bear the expense of any utility relocation costs on the subject property.  The church has agreed to comply with that provision.

Toccoa City Commissioner Jeanette Jamieson then asked if the church would receive the property since it was moving the utilities.

“We are talking about moving utility lines and I cannot imagine they would incur the expense of moving utility lines if they did not get the property,” said Jamieson.

“I think that is a fair assumption,” said Morse.

The commission approved a motion to approve the abandonment and convey the title of the abandoned property to the church by a vote of 2-1.  Vice-Mayor Terry Carter and Commissioner David Austin voted in favor of the motion, while Commissioner Jeanette Jamieson voted against it.

Jamieson said her understanding was that the Planning Commission was going to recommend abandonment, but that the issue of who would get the property would not be dealt with.

“There was nothing mentioned at that time about the recommendation from the Planning Commission that the property would be given to the First United Methodist Church and so once I realized there was part of that recommendation I did not know about until I got in the meeting, I had reservations about giving property,” said Jamieson.  “I think it puts us in a position where any other church or any other group had property that belonged to the city but adjoined their property, they could keep coming up asking the city to abandon that property and give it to them.”

Jamieson said that while it may have been done this way previously, it is a new day and she does not feel the city should give away public property.

Mayor Gail Fry recused herself from the vote as a member of the FirstUnitedMethodistChurch, while Commissioner Evan Hellenga recused himself because he was a member of the Planning Commission when it considered this issue.

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