Gwinnett’s Board of Commissioners has approved new requirements governing how the county purchases land from private sellers.
Going forward, land deals will only occur if there is an existing and specific need directly corresponding to a larger master plan, program or project.
Staff from multiple county departments will complete thorough reviews to determine whether any proposed land acquisitions are appropriate with budget dollars available for them to be fully funded.
The more stringent rules come after intense scrutiny was leveled at the county, including legal inquires made by the District Attorney’s office. A special purpose grand jury evaluating Gwinnett’s practices also recommended the adoption of new policies.
Commissioner Lynette Howard said the new guidelines should promote openness and accountability for land use and spending.
“It’s a very powerful thing, a powerful difference,” Howard said of the policy change. “It answers a definite need and demand from the citizens. We had to make sure that the public trusted what we did as far as purchasing and that we said there are going to be rules.”
Howard said she believes that residents in Peachtree Corners, Berkeley Lake and other areas will gain better insights into how the county spends their tax dollars because of the new policies. But as of right now, the county’s interest in land purchases has greatly diminished.
“We really don’t have a great need right now,” Howard said.
Gwinnett’s new standards are gaining interest and accolades from independent observers.
Benita Dodd, vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, said Howard and her follow commissioners deserve credit for taking steps to increase transparency and protection benefiting taxpayers.
“Sunshine on government’s processes is always advisable, and in Gwinnett’s case is sorely needed,” Dodd said.
“Residents deserve to see that their elected officials are acting in the county’s best interests and that their actions are justifiable and necessary. This move should go a long way toward restoring trust in government.”