Proposed Cities of South DeKalb, Stonecrest Submitted Maps to Legislature
The groups submitted their signed proposed maps November 17, 2014 to the office of State Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta), Chair of the Georgia State House Governmental Affairs Committee. They had previously submitted their maps to State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) on October 16, 2014.
“If approved, the city of South DeKalb will represent a historic step in DeKalb county’s history. The population of South DeKalb (294,398) will render it the second largest city in the state of Georgia. If South DeKalb is approved along with Stonecrest (population of approximately 50,000) and the… cities in the north, it would essentially mark the municipalization of DeKalb County,” the Concerned Citizens for Cityhood in South DeKalb (CCCSD) said in a press release.
At this time, there are two groups seeking cityhood in north DeKalb, as previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News: LaVista Hills and Tucker. LaVista Hills is the union of the former Briarcliff and Lakeside efforts from the 2014 legislative session. In addition, there are annexation efforts, including the City of Atlanta’s attempted annexation of Druid Hills and Brookhaven’s attempted annexation of Executive Park.
Dr. Kathryn Rice of CCCSD has been writing about municipal incorporations for a few years. A published writer in the field and South DeKalb resident, her reasons for incorporating South DeKalb to form its own city were simple: strategic and financial.
“I’ve been writing on municipal incorporations in academia. I am very familiar with this arena, across the United States. Sandy Springs cityhood is what started my interest in the subject. I’m not pro-incorporation, but I began to see that some of the cities that were annexing properties were either in or close to South DeKalb. That’s when I paid attention,” Rice told APN.
“South DeKalb compared to North is underdeveloped. By far, the development is on the north side. The result is there will be less to incorporate. Incorporating should never be a defensive. You should always do something so there is benefit to all. The way the county is structured right now, it is not beneficial to the south side,” Rice said.
“By partitioning itself, South DeKalb has a shot at the benefits [that North DeKalb has]; we can begin to draw economic development into South DeKalb. This is the primary reason for incorporating. When these annexations [in the North] occur, they are taking the few assets that South DeKalb had,” Rice said.
“We want to protect ourselves financially,” Rice stated as the second reason for incorporating. “There is a 50 million dollar annual pension payment that South DeKalb would have to bear the brunt of, if we remained unincorporated, while the rest of the County incorporated. Right now, each person in South DeKalb is paying 91 dollars. If South DeKalb was responsible for that payment after North DeKalb incorporated, that number would increase to about 141 dollars per person, approximately 56.4 percent. I am working on what the burden would mean to the medium income, four-person family,” she said.
Oddly enough, when APN asked each cityhood effort what the reasons were for incorporating, the sentiment was a distaste for County Government and a general lack of trust for County officials.
Pension funding is not a new issue in Metro Atlanta, with the City of Atlanta having recently amended its pension plan for new employees, while requiring existing employees to increase their contributions.
Whether or not paying for DeKalb’s annual pension obligation was an an issue for the Northside efforts is unknown. Many of the new cities in Fulton County that have incorporated over the last ten years have privatized most city services, leading to less pension obligations, and less retirement security for city employees.
Rice’s research shows that municipalization is not just a local trend; however, Metro Atlanta is leading the country by far.
Rice found a few prevailing commonalities from areas around the country that have sought incorporation: well-educated residents with higher incomes; as well as concerns regarding quality of life issues, control over zoning, control over growth, and a consolidation of wealth. The predominant race among communities that incorporates is White.
While Georgia leads the way in cityhood and annexation efforts, parts of Texas and Missouri, as well as California, are also in the game.
Most of Rice’s research is compiled here in the 2014 peer-reviewed article “Why New Cities Form: An Examination into Municipal Incorporation in the United States 1950−2010,” in the Journal of Planning Literature:
Rice also told APN that a feasibility study has been initiated with the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute. The question of ‘Will the area generate enough revenue?” is the main question of the study.
“This is a lot to wrap your head around,” Rice said. “With 294,000 people in the proposed area, reaching every person will be difficult, but there’s been meetings, both formal and informal, occurring all over the area since July . At the meetings I’ve attended, most people don’t want to be left unincorporated, but are not sure of being incorporated. We will be doing our best to reach as many people as possible to communicate the benefits of incorporating.”
“I’m more concerned with the sprawling nature of this city and especially encroaching ITP north of I-20 where disputes with Atlanta, Decatur, and Avondale Estates will easily occur… I’d be anxious to see the moods of the people inside the proposed boundaries and how this would fix the school system,” Brian Walker, a Facebook member who showed interest in CCCSD’s efforts, said.
Developing an internal structure, determining final boundaries, and an outreach tour are CCCSD’s priorities that will carry the group into next year’s legislative session.
At this time, there is no legislation drawn up for South DeKalb. State Rep. Rahn Mayo (D-Decatur) sponsored the feasibility study, but has not introduced any legislation. The results of the feasibility study are due December 2014.