Lovejoy annexation tabled

By Justin Boron

Trish Pittman's back yard in the Summer Creek subdivision of south Clayton County looks out into a babbling creek and undeveloped property dense with trees.

But she says the serenity may soon end if a proposed annexation of property contiguous to her neighborhood is approved by the Lovjeoy City Council, which voted to decide next month whether the 160-unit subdivision can come into the city already suffused with residential and commercial growth.

For the past two months, James Baune and Troy Smith have asked for their property to be annexed into the city and zoned for a medium density development that would hold an average of 3.25 homes per acre.

Both times, the issue has been tabled for more discussion.

Tuesday night, in her first meeting as an elected official, Council member Angela Cannon initiated the holdover on the item by asking to wait for more information about the impact of additional traffic created by the subdivision.

The repeat tabling of February's meeting was more than a disappointment for Baune.

"This is really unnerving," he said.

Expecting to get approved, Baune said he had been invited to be annexed into the city. Given the wavering council, he said he is considering going before the county zoning board, which is seen as more stringent than Lovejoy.

The subdivision's proposal also raised the increasingly common debate over whether suburban growth should be allowed in the county's last bastion of rural property or if it should be stunted by more restrictive zoning conditions.

The hot-tempered question holds the fate of many panhandle residents who are desperate to stave off the low-value tract homes and strip malls that have been criticized in the northern part of the county for drawing crime and gridlocking traffic.

Lovejoy Mayor Joe Murphy, who also serves as the county assistant director of community development, said resisting the growth is futile.

"It's just the time for Lovejoy to grow," he said. "You can't stop it. It's like an engine. It feeds."

The response seems automatic from county mainstays, some with more than 40 years in the area, that watched the city of Atlanta creep into their neighborhoods the past two decades.

"This is our nightmare coming to reality," Pittman said.

Rising property values have fueled an influx of developers, often purchasing the property from landowners who are uprooting and heading further south to maintain their rural lifestyle, city officials say.

With a commuter rail set to begin service in 2006, a higher density of development is unavoidable, said Council member Bobby Cartwright.