Some DeKalb County legislators question whether any of the bills for creating cities in central DeKalb will be approved during the upcoming legislative session.
At a Dec. 19 town hall meeting in Brookhaven, members of DeKalb County’s legislative delegation discussed how to handle the competing efforts to create new cities.
Three groups – the Lakeside City Alliance, the City of Briarcliff Initiative and Tucker 2014 – have all commissioned feasibility studies and are angling for legislative approval to make their municipal dreams a reality. The problem is, all three proposed cities overlap in the area around Northlake Mall.
“How are we going to resolve this mess?” Angela Trosclair of Tucker asked.
“The question you ask is really something that worries me a lot,” said Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur. “We’re about to do some serious damage.”
Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, said he’s not sure there will be enough time to untangle the mess before the 40-day session of the General Assembly wraps up. Due to earlier primary elections this year, the Legislature will likely convene sometime in late April, Taylor said.
“We’ve got an extremely compressed session,” Taylor said. “If any of these comes up – and I say if – because there’s a certain level of DeKalb and Fulton fatigue [in the Legislature] … if it’s not essential I don’t know that it’s going to happen this session.”
Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, said he thinks the chaos surrounding the cityhood bills could be their demise.
“Frankly, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen,” Jacobs said. “I think it makes the process more difficult, particularly this year.”
Oliver said she thinks there needs to be a cohesive discussion or planning process for potential new cities and annexations proposed by existing cities.
“I think that discussion needs to go together in some way,” Oliver said. “Everything in my district is subject to one new city or another.”
Jacobs said he doesn’t favor any sort of moratorium or master planning process. He thinks if the bills aren’t ready, they won’t be approved.
“It may be self-correcting,” Jacobs said.
Rep. Karen Bennett, D-Stone Mountain, said she’s concerned about the effect the cityhood efforts could have on her constituents, even though they aren’t included in any of the boundaries.
“I represent a significant number of people in unincorporated DeKalb and we have no voice,” she said. “At the end of the day we don’t want more damage.”
There’s also another proposed city effort in south DeKalb County, which proponents would like to be called the city of Stonecrest.
Deborah Jackson, the mayor of Lithonia, told the legislators that proposal concerns her.
“While we support the establishment of cities, we are concerned about this movement that seems to be a land grab, and have an impact on existing cities,” Jackson said.
She said the proposed city of Stonecrest, “surrounds Lithonia and chokes us.”
Brookhaven City Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams said her city stands behind groups hoping to create their own cities this year just south of Brookhaven’s borders.
“As the newest city in DeKalb, we support the other cityhood efforts. It’s a little more complicated with more than one city coming forward,” Williams said. “We’re finding local control and providing services closer to the people has been working very well for us.”