Broker: Growth needed

Published 10:17 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2006

By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
Brewton real estate broker Jackson Hines sees it as necessary progress.
The proposed annexation of three areas surrounding Brewton has drawn criticism from county residents concerned about higher taxes and the effect on county schools.
Hines, a longtime advocate of growing the city limits, said the proposed annexation plan is &#8220long overdue” - although the current plan probably needs some changes, he said.
City officials have said they are looking at doing just that, after taking suggestions from area residents. Those comments will be given to the annexation study committee, who will look at possible modifications to the current plan, which would add 8.62 square miles to the city limits.
Hines said that when his company - Hines Realty - has developed new subdivisions in the county, the firm always seeks to have that area annexed into the city before construction begins. And residents who want to live in those houses welcome the inclusion, he said.
Only 30 to 40 acres in the city limits are left to develop a subdivision, Hines said.
Annexation looks to the future, he said, noting that growth in other areas near Brewton will likely reach the community one day.
One of the greatest advantages to annexation is the opportunity to apply municipal planning and zoning regulations to areas that have the most potential for growth, Hines said.
Brewton's population has been in decline - and that could make potential businesses think twice about moving to the area. But in reality, Hines said, the surrounding areas are growing.
The current annexation plan shows that Brewton's sales tax base would only increase by about $14,000, based on the current businesses located in the areas that would be annexed. But city officials say the potential for commercial growth is there. Hines agreed.
Another advantage to increasing the city limits would be including younger families now living in the county in city business, Hines said. That would give local boards and organizations the chance to use new talent, he said.
But opponents to annexation have said one of the biggest drawbacks to the plan is how it would affect county schools.
Escambia County Superintendent Billy Hines has urged city officials not to go forward with the plan - or at least to put it to a county vote - because of the impact annexation could have on area schools. Under the current plan, county schools could lose about 125 students.
While the city and county school systems have an agreement to allow students to attend either system, Superintendent Hines said there is not a guarantee that agreement could continue.
If the county school system lost that many students from its schools in East Brewton, the superintendent said that could cost the system up to seven teachers and two bus drivers.
City officials had said they hoped to have a plan before legislators for their approval by next spring, but they have since said they will

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