Homeowner sues county for $300,000

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Tia Lynn Ivey managing editor

A local homeowner is attempting to sue Morgan County for $300,000 in federal court over a zoning ordinance prohibiting vacation rentals in her district. Christine May has been battling Morgan County government for more than five years over conducting short-term rentals out of her Lake Oconee house on Grayson Pointe Drive in Buckhead that she had custom built in 2007 and began renting out in 2008. Christine May, a retired executive and part-time realtor who lives in New Jersey, says she now faces criminal citations issued by the county for continuing renting out the property after a zoning ordinance in 2010 outlawed the practice. “This is a dream house for me,” said May. “From day one, it was going to be a rental property, and everyone knew it, the county knew about it. If I Tax Assessor’s Department completes this year’s property assessments.

“It’s all about the property values,” said Sayer. Last year, the BOC voted to forgo last year’s rollback rate, set at 8.89, and instead raise the millage rate to 11.31—a 19.1 percent increase to millage rate in the previous year set at 9.49. The BOC defended their decision to raise the millage as an “inevitable” and “unavoidable” measure after years of depleting the county’s fund balance to delay raising property taxes “during the worst years of the economic recession.” According to the BOC, the fund balance once reached a high of 42 percent, but is now down to 17 percent, just two percent higher than the lowest level legally allowed. Increases in expenditures that year also contributed to the BOC’s decision to raise the millage rate. Sayer pointed out that the county had a huge increase in the cost of health insurance—a 45 percent increase, which she does not anticipate happening again this year. “It should either remain the same or increase slightly,” said Sayer. The BOC promised to be diligent when planning the 2017 budget to do everything within their power to be able to adopt the rollback millage rate in July. The BOC will begin planning the budget in the coming months, before voting on it in June.

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