Proposed City of Greenhaven Bill Stalls, as Some Seek Atlanta Annexation
(APN) ATLANTA — A controversial bill to create a new City of Greenhaven, comprised of much of remaining unincorporated DeKalb County, did not pass out of the State House and thus did not “cross over” to the State Senate.
The bill appears to be dead for this year; however, opponents of the new city are worried a State Senator may try to amend some unrelated bill that did pass the State House to include new language to create the new city.
Meanwhile, a group of residents living in and around the 30316 zip code near the neighborhood of East Atlanta have formed a Facebook group to organize around annexing into the City of Atlanta, to avoid becoming part of Greenhaven or some other new city.
Some of the possible new Atlanta neighborhoods include Gresham Park and Candler-McAfee. Braeburn Circle recently completed an annexation using the 60 percent petition method.
Included as stated reasons for joining the City of Atlanta: “Atlanta is a full service city. Real estate values are higher. APS schools spend $12,994/student vs. $8,847/student in DeKalb (less than state average of $9,202). Removes threat of being incorporated into unknown and new city (eg, Greenhaven). Participation in Mayoral and City Council elections. Atlanta has Neighborhood Planning Units.”
On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, the Greenhaven cityhood bill, HR 644, moved out of the Governmental Subcommittee with a three to two vote.
Instead of State Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) introducing his bill, State Rep. Vernon Jones (D-Lithonia) introduced a bizarre different version of the bill that included additional neighborhoods all the way up to the proposed border of the proposed new City of Vista Grove.
After Jones used up all the time and sucked all the oxygen out of the room, he withdrew his bill and left.
About thirty people who came to speak on the bill had to wait for the full council meeting.
State Reps. Scott Turner (R-Holly Springs), Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), and Ed Rynders (R-Albany) voted yes.
State Reps. Renitta Shannon (D-Atlanta) and Robert Trammell (D-Luthersville) voted no.
Atlanta Progressive News questioned State Rep. Buzz Brockway (D-Lawrenceville) about Greenhaven’s boundary lines, which encircled so many other existing cities in DeKalb County so they could not annex and grow.
“The bill we voted on and moved to full committee took that into account. It [the Greenhaven footprint] was scaled back away from areas that those other cities are in and are in the process of annexing,” Brockway told APN, adding he had heard from a number of people who live in Pine Lake and Stone Mountain.
“My understanding is that the other cities in the area – it does not include areas they are planning to annex or want to annex.”
However, the latest Greenhaven map viewed by APN does not appear to be scaled back very much: It completely encircles Stone Mountain, Pine Lake, Lithonia, and Stonecrest; and it leaves a little wiggle room for Clarkston and Avondale Estates.
“We need more talk about the impact of annexations and incorporations and what impact it will have on the County. I think this [bill] is premature,” Rep. Shannon told APN, adding that no one from the DeKalb delegation was even sponsoring the bill now.
“My top concern is what will happen to seniors when you start these new cities, and the fact that we should have some unincorporated areas where folks can choose to not live in a city,” Rep. Shannon said.
If the bill passes the full House and Senate, Greenhaven would immediately become the second largest city in Georgia, covering some forty percent of DeKalb County. It would have a population of almost 300,000 people, but with very little commercial and industrial development to support the tax base.
FULL GOVERNMENTAL COMMITTEE MEETING
After an hour break for lunch, HR 644 moved to the full Governmental Committee, chaired by State Rep. Rynders, who was in a rush to attend another meeting. Rynders ask the committee for a favorable decision, so it could move on to Rules Committee.
State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) raised a procedural objection because the author, Rep. Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) was not present to introduce the bill.
Mr. Rynders gave the folks still waiting to comment on the bill thirty seconds to speak.
Here’s the highlights from citizen input.
“We have met all the criteria that other cities have met since 2000. We have worked at this for four years and we are the only people in DeKalb County that have not had one chance to vote on cityhood,” Dr. Kathryn Rice, Chair of the Concerned Citizens for Cityhood of South DeKalb, said in favor of Greenhaven.
Jean Bordeaux from Pine Lake was concerned that the care and maintenance of county road rights of way that was not included in the feasibility study of Greenhaven.
Mayor Patricia Wheeler of Stone Mountain, opposed the the bill because Greenhaven totally surrounds her city and makes it impossible to annex.
“We planned an annexation but are not ready to present it this year and Billy Mitchell knew this,” Mayor Wheeler said
“The cities in DeKalb County are working with DeKalb County leadership to fund a study with the Carl Vincent Institute to look at what further annexations or new city formations would look like and how that would impact the County,” Mayor Patti Garrett of Decatur said.
“That is something the DeKalb delegation has asked us to do and now we have the cooperation of the CEO and the DeKalb Municipal Association and the Dekalb County Commission. For this reason, I would like movement of this to be deferred until that study has taken place,” Garrett said.
Several other people also ask the Committee to delay their vote until the Carl Vincent Institute completed their study on the impact to other cities and the county of new city formations.
After a back and forth between Jenna Magnum and Chairman Rynders over how the needs of so many different neighborhoods could be met, Magnum questioned Rynders:”So you would pass any cityhood bill that meets the minimum requirements?”
“Yes,” Rynders responded.
“Scary,” Magnum said, to roars of laughter .
“Every single email I have gotten form my constituents is not in favor of this and I don’t believe there has been adequate public process to create a city this size,” State Rep. Bee Nguyen (D-Atlanta) said.
Rep. Nguyen offered up an amendment raising the threshold of the percentage of voters who must be in favor of cityhood in the impacted area from fifty percent to 57.5 percent. This is similar to the previous City of Sharon Springs legislation that the committee at that time agreed was a good threshold.
The Nguyen amendment was voted down with ten opposed and six in favor.
The final vote on HR 644 was eleven in favor and six opposed, so it then moved to Rules Committee.
However, the Rules Office told APN that HB 644 was not placed on the Rules calendar by its sponsor, Mr. Mitchell, thus making it dead for this year.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2018)