Annexation Methods in Georgia

December 19, 2001

In Georgia, there are five ways for cities to annex property inside the city's corporate limits. These methods are briefly described below:

Local Legislation Method
This method of annexation requires a local act of the General Assembly. Prior to 1996, the General Assembly could annex any property into a city simply by passing a local act amending the city's charter. In 1996, the General Assembly added a restriction on its own power to annex by local act. If an area proposed for annexation by local act of the General Assembly is comprised of more than 50% residential property (by acreage) and includes a population exceeding three percent of the city's population or 500 persons, whichever is less, then the annexation must be approved by referendum. The 1996 amendment has hindered attempts to annex large residential areas in some cities.

100 Percent Method
This method of annexation must be initiated by the 'written and signed applications of all the owners of land" proposed to be annexed. This method may only be used to annex contiguous areas, as defined by O.C.G.A. Section 36-36-20.

Prior to the passage of HB 1439 in the 2000 Session, the 100% Method was not available to municipalities located in counties having populations of 100,000 or more. When the original legislation authorizing annexation under the 100% method was approved in the 1960s, only the cities in Fulton County were affected by this population provision. However, the number of cities and counties affected by this legislation increased with each decennial census and, based on 1990 census figures, the restrictions extended to cities located in the counties of Bibb, Chatham, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Muscogee, and Richmond

60 Percent Method
The 60% method authorizes municipal governing authorities to annex land by ordinance upon the written and signed applications from: 1) not less than 60% of the resident voters in the area; and 2) the owners of not less than 60% of the land area by acreage. Like the 100% method, this method can only be used for areas that are contiguous to the municipal boundary. However, under this method, contiguous area is defined as any area of which at least one-eighth of the aggregate external boundary abuts the municipal boundary. (O.C.G.A. Section 36-36-31(a).)

Resolution and Referendum Method
This method authorizes annexation by resolution of the municipal governing authority and referendum of the qualified voters in the area to be annexed. The process is initiated by the adoption of a resolution of intent to annex the specified area. The annexation law requires an extensive report regarding extension of services to be provided by the city and procedural requirements for notice and public hearings. Because of its complexity and the requirement that only persons in the area to be annexed may vote, this method has almost never been used. (However, in 1999, the City of Roswell annexed more than 3,000 acres containing more than 11,000 residents using this method.)

Annexation of Unincorporated Islands
Under HB 1439, passed in the 2000 Session of the General Assembly, cities are now authorized to unilaterally annex unincorporated islands. The legislative purpose behind this provision was to prevent service delivery confusion and, in conjunction with O.C.G.A. Section 36-36-4, to prevent the formation of new islands while eliminating existing unincorporated islands.

Previously, a 1992 law authorized cities to annex, by ordinance, unincorporated islands of 50 acres or less which were in existence as of January 1, 1991. The 1992 law creating this method also prohibits the creation of new unincorporated islands.