Methods of Annexation
There are five methods of annexation. For additional details on annexation, the full text of Georgia's annexation statutes, case summaries, checklists and other materials on annexation, please see GMA's Growing Cities, Growing Georgia: A Guide to Georgia's Annexation Law.
The 100% method allows property owners of all the land in an area to seek to have their property annexed into an adjacent city by signing a petition (O.C.G.A. § 36-36-20 et seq.). It is up to the city council to determine whether to annex the property or not. However, counties have the power to prevent the expansion of a city into their county for the first time using the 100% method (O.C.G.A. § 36-36-23(b)).
Land can also be deannexed from a city in response to a petition signed by all of the owners of the land seeking deannexation. It is prohibited for such a deannexation to create an unincorporated island. The decision whether to deannex an area is treated the same as a decision to annex by the 100% method and left to the discretion of the municipal governing authority.
This method allows for petitioners representing owners of at least 60% of the property in the area to be annexed plus at least 60% of the resident electors in the area to be annexed to sign a petition to have their property annexed into an adjacent city. This method is available to cities with populations over 200 persons. The municipality is required to prepare a plan for servicing an area to be annexed and to hold a public hearing before adopting an ordinance annexing the area covered by the petition (O.C.G.A. § 36-36-30 et seq.; City of Riverdale v. Clayton County, 263 Ga.App. 672, 588 S.E.2d 845 (2003)).
Resolution and Referendum
The resolution and referendum method provides for an election to be held in an area to determine if the area should be annexed. This method requires an agreement between the city and the county providing services in the area and a referendum of voters residing in the area to be annexed (O.C.G.A. §§ 36-36-57, -58; O.C.G.A. § 36-36-54(b)(4)). Municipalities may annex contiguous areas intended to be developed for "urban purposes" as well as areas in between the existing city limits and areas to be developed for "urban purposes." The municipality must prepare a plan for servicing the area to be annexed and hold a public hearing prior to the referendum. An area intended to be developed for "urban purposes" is defined as an area with a total resident population equal to at least two persons for each acre of land and an area subdivided into lots and tracts such that at least 60% of the total acreage consists of lots and tracts five acres or less in size and such that at least 60% of the total number of lots and tracts are one acre or less in size (O.C.G.A. § 36-36-54(c)-(d)).
Municipalities with a population of 200 or more may unilaterally annex contiguous "unincorporated islands" (O.C.G.A. § 36-36-90 et seq.). "Unincorporated islands" are areas completely surrounded by one or more cities. To be eligible for this type of annexation the unincorporated island must have been such an island on January 1, 1991. All or any portion of such an unincorporated island may be annexed simply by the passage of an ordinance by the city council. The intent behind this authority is to allow cities to alleviate voting and service delivery issues caused by such areas.
Local Act of General Assembly
In addition to annexation by home rule, the Georgia General Assembly may change a municipality's boundaries and annex property into the municipal limits by enacting local legislation. Where more than 50% of an area proposed for annexation by local act is "used for residential purposes" and the number of residents to be annexed exceeds 3% of the city's current population or 500 people, whichever is less, a referendum on annexation must be held in the area to be annexed. "Used for residential purposes" means that the property is a lot or tract five acres or less in size on which is constructed a habitable dwelling unit (O.C.G.A. § 36-36-16).
Land can also be deannexed from a city by the legislature. Note that introduction of a local act of the General Assembly must be preceded by notice to the municipality affected and advertisement in the newspaper (O.C.G.A. § 28-1-4).
Once property has been annexed, the city must file an identification of the annexed land with the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and the county within 30 days of the last day of the quarter during which the annexation becomes effective (O.C.G.A. § 36-36-3; O.C.G.A § 36-36-38). The city must also send to DCA and the county a letter stating the city's intent to add the annexed area to maps provided by the United States Census Bureau during the next regularly scheduled boundary and annexation survey of the municipality (O.C.G.A. § 36-36-3(a)(3); O.C.G.A. § 36-36-3(g)). Additionally, the city must send to DCA a list identifying roadways, bridges, and rights-of-way on state routes that are annexed, including total mileage annexed (O.C.G.A. § 36-36-3(a)(4)). The addition of this information to the official census map is important for a variety of purposes, including redistricting.