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Business leaders leaning toward city of Stonecrest

Ken Watts | 7/12/2013, 8:28 p.m.
Leaders of the Stonecrest Business Alliance say despite earlier doubts, they now support the effort to launch a feasibility study ...
A crowd estimated at more than 200 people attended the Stonecrest City Alliance's informational meeting at the Klondike Branch DeKalb Library. July 8, 2013. Photo by Ken Watts

Leaders of the Stonecrest Business Alliance say despite earlier doubts, they now support the effort to launch a feasibility study of the proposed City of Stonecrest.

Jason Lary

Jason Lary

Dr. Albert Scott, vice-chair of the influential group of South DeKalb merchants and professionals, said the Alliance’s Board of Directors made the decision after a July 1 presentation by Jason Lary, president of the Stonecrest City Alliance, the group campaigning to raise funds for the cityhood study.

The proposed new city of about 42,000 people would encompass an expanse of unincorporated Lithonia neighborhoods surrounding the Panola, Evans Mill and Turner Hill roads exits. The current map shows Covington Highway to the north, Browns Mill Road to the south and Flat Shoals/River Road to the west. Turner Hill Road forms the eastern boundary. The centerpiece would be the 1.3 million-square-foot Mall at Stonecrest.

“It was a good PowerPoint and he made a compelling case,” Scott said of Lary’s presentation to the board. “But we want to see them get to the feasibility study phase. That’s the only way all our questions will be answered regarding whether cityhood is really a viable idea.” The comments mark a shift from May, when the Business Alliance sharply questioned whether the timing is right for cityhood in the Stonecrest area.

Sam Armstrong, coordinator of the Business Alliance, said at the time that he was concerned about the cost to create and maintain a city.

“I don’t want to step into a bottomless pit,” Armstrong said, adding that many of the businesses in the area are in a concerned state and not performing at a comfortable level.

But today he too feels the effort should move forward.

“I’m an accountant type so I’m anxious to see what an outside agency says about the cost involved.”

Scott said the new support for the cityhood movement comes from the Business Alliance’s board.

“We have not yet polled the membership and I’m sure there are strong feelings on both sides of the issue.”

The Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia will conduct the study, the same experts who are analyzing the Lakeside City proposal in North DeKalb.

An excited Jason Lary feels the momentum is on the side of the SCA with the group making strides toward raising the $30,000 needed for the feasibility study that is required by the state.

“We raised $1,000 at our regular monthly informational meeting July 8, the most we’ve ever received at one time,” Lary said. “That brings our total to $20,000 with another $500 pledged this week by a member of the Business Alliance. We’re going to finish the fundraising and have the money by the end of July, guaranteed. So we’re a serious contender now.”

Lary had another reason to be upbeat. More than 200 people turned out for the July 8 meeting in the auditorium at the new Klondike Branch DeKalb Library.

“It was standing room only toward the end,” said Lary, “the largest turnout to date for one of our meetings.” He briefed the crowd on the cityhood process - its possible risks and benefits. “People want to be self-determined, they want to be self-governed.” But some worry about a spike in property taxes under cityhood.