Objections over annexing portions of Columbia County into the city limits of Harlem began in 2017.
In documents obtained through an Open Records Request, NewsChannel 6 has learned the largest property owner declined in March of 2017 to be included in a property annexation into Harlem’s city limits.
The letter to Harlem City Manager, Brett Cook and former Harlem Mayor Bobby Culpepper is from a representative of Tony Townley, who owns the 750 acres in question called “Log Creek LLLP”. The letter says, in part: “Tony is very interested in the opportunity in the future, but due to time constraints and not wanting to hold you up, he wanted me to let you know that at this time he can’t commit.”
The property, along with other parcels in Columbia County, were part of House Bill 598 submitted by Representative Barry Fleming on March 11, 2019.
On March 25th, an attorney for Townley and Log Creek LLLP notified Columbia County officials via email that Townley “strongly objects to the proposed bill”.
Townley met with Harlem and Columbia County officials on April 12th to reiterate his opposition which was followed up by a thank you note from City Manager Brett Cook saying to Townley, “Based on your objection, the City will contact the Governor’s Office and Representative Fleming requesting that the bill be vetoed.” Two of the other property owners affected also sent emails to Harlem saying they did not wish for their property to be annexed.
Governor Brian Kemp currently has the bill on his desk and has until May the 12th to decide to veto the bill or sign it.
Columbia County commissioners also opposed the plan. In an April meeting, commissioners went on record with their opposition to the annexation of the property, claiming they were not given “proper notification” of the plans.
In a letter to Cook, Columbia County administrator Scott Johnson cited Georgia law, saying Columbia County should have received notification of the proposed legislation via certified letter the same week the legislation was published in the official organ of the county, The Columbia County News Times. That public notification was published in the paper the week of February 13th 2019. The letter from Johnson says county officials were not given an opportunity to discuss the proposed annexation with the Legislative Delegation before the bill moved in the House.
However, State Representative Barry Fleming told NewsChannel 6 he discussed with Columbia County and Harlem city leaders the possible annexation of the properties, as well as the land value increase. Fleming said utilities would be provided for future development in the area in part because of the growth the cyber community has brought to the CSRA.
The property owners in favor of the annexation proposal include Larry Prather, Lionel Prather and owners of Greenpoint Land Holdings. Greenpoint, as reported by WJBF in June of 2018, is expected to be the largest Columbia County development since work began on Riverwood Plantation.
Documents pertaining to the annexation obtained by WJBF have been included HERE