Controversial Norcross annexation bill stalls in legislature

State legislation that could pave the way for Norcross to annex a sizable chunk of unincorporated Gwinnett County will have to wait until next year.

Norcross and Mayor Craig Newton had their sights set on about three square miles between Jimmy Carter Boulevard and the DeKalb County line, an area that includes about 300 businesses and around 6,000 mostly low-income residents. Newton suggested that the area has suffered from “benign neglect” and said city officials could do a better job helping turn it around.

Passage of House Bill 661 would’ve enabled residents in the proposed annexation area to vote on the issue in November 2020. The bill made it out of the House of Representatives last week but never got a vote in the Senate.

Tuesday was the final day of the legislative session. The bill will carry over for potential consideration during next year's session, said bill sponsor Rep. Pedro Marin, D-Duluth.

Gwinnett County came out in opposition of Norcross’ proposal. Commission Chair Charlotte Nash stressed the need for a more in-depth look at the area and the potential impacts of annexation.

A “potential impacts report” completed by the county suggested that property owners would see a significant property tax increase should they be annexed into the city.

“Having more time to assess its potential impacts is helpful,” Nash said. “To date, we have identified and quantified just a portion of those for this proposal which, if approved, would be the largest annexation by a Gwinnett city in my memory.”

The proposed annexation area also surrounds the campus of OFS Brightwave Solutions, a significant portion of which Gwinnett County purchased last year in hopes of building a multimodal transit hub.

The fate of that hub got a little murkier with the failure of Gwinnett's MARTA referendum last month. But an annexation could hamper the county's ability to control growth and development in the area, officials said.