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Hartselle council could overrule planning board

By Deangelo McDaniel
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2469

HARTSELLE — For the first time since the current city administration took office in 2004, the Planning Commission has recommended that Hartselle not approve an annexation application.

At least two City Council members said they will not support the commission's decision because they want to grow the city.

The 10.5 acres on Nance Ford Road is contiguous to the city limits. But part of the property is not in Hartselle's planning jurisdiction. This is why the commission recommended that the council not approve Taylor and Heather Roberts' annexation application.

"If they already touch the city limits, I will vote for them to come in," Council President Kenny Thompson said. "I've always believed that if people want to come in, I will support them. That's how you grow the city."

"We've not turned down one," Councilman Bill Smelser said about annexation requests.

Smelser is the council representative on the Planning Commission. He abstained from voting on the application during the commission meeting, but said he will support the Roberts family during Tuesday's council meeting.

The Robertses want to be in the city because of the school system.

"They can follow what the Planning Commission recommends or vote to annex the land," City Planner Jeremy Griffith said.

It takes three council votes to approve the application.

Since taking office in October 2004, the current administration has not denied any annexation request.

City records show that the city has annexed 550 acres. Most of the property is in commercial or industrial zones near Interstate 65.

Planning Commission members Jerry Putman and Bill Evans want to annex the Roberts property.

"I'm looking at this from the long run, not the short run," said Putman, who is chairman of the commission. "Part of this property is a Priority 4 in the comprehensive plan. If it's in the plan, we should annex it."

Commission member Jim Martin is concerned about the financial burden annexation places on city services.

"Does the city consider the economic impact this has on the city?" he asked.

City leaders have discussed this, but Hartselle has not done a comprehensive study about how annexation affects the police and fire departments.

"We sometimes discuss this with the fire and police chiefs," Smelser said. "I don't know of any that they have opposed."

Meanwhile, Griffith wants the commission to change how Hartselle defines its planning jurisdiction. State law allows municipalities to enforce building regulations up to five miles outside their city limits.

Hartselle uses section lines for its planning jurisdiction. The lines do not move when the council annexes.

Griffith wants the city to use a common distance that moves as city limits expand.

"This is the way most cities do it," he said.

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