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Cityhood bills dead for 2014 General Assembly

3/17/2014, 9:15 p.m.
The Lakeside-Tucker map as of March 12, 2014.

The Lakeside, Tucker and Briarcliff cityhood proposals are dead for the 2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly. Backers pushed for legislation allowing the north-central DeKalb neighborhoods to vote this year on whether to create new cities.

The movement had bogged down in recent weeks over boundary disputes between the proposed cities though Lakeside and Tucker proponents worked out a compromise last week and updated the agreement over the weekend.

But state Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta), a member of the DeKalb legislative delegation, tweeted Monday afternoon that House rules prevented a vote on the bills before the session ends March 20. Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) who sponsored SB 270, the Lakeside bill, withdrew the measure Monday even though it had already passed the Senate.

Holcomb posted this statement on his website:

“I just attended the House Governmental Affairs Committee meeting. The Committee heard from Rep. Mike Jacobs who worked with the Lakeside and Tucker leaders to craft the compromise last week. He recommended that neither Lakeside nor Tucker move forward this year because to do so would require changing the rules of the House. Such a change would not have passed the House Rules Committee. Consequently, Senator Fran Millar withdrew SB 270.

This means that there will not be a vote this year on the proposed cities of Lakeside, Tucker, or Briarcliff. It is too early to state what may happen going forward, but one possibility is that the compromise map agreed to by Lakeside and Tucker could be considered in the next session. In other words, just because there will not be a vote this year does not mean that there will not be one at a later time.

Throughout this year, I have stated that this process needs to be fair, inclusive, transparent, and non-partisan. That will continue to be my priority as the conversation continues.”

Very best,

Scott

Lakeside Alliance Chairperson Mary Kay Woodworth issued an email statement thanking supporters and expressing “much regret” that the cityhood effort has ended for 2014.

“There will be much debate as to the reasons behind the withdrawal of SB 270 by Senator Millar, but I can assure you that he was with us the entire way. I thank Senator Millar and Representative Taylor for their unwaivering support,” Woodworth said.

“Local control was paramount to the desire to create a city, and the actions of many our elected officials today highlights the need for local control, closer to the people. It is a very sad day for our neighbors and our county, but we will figure out a way to move forward positively and together.”

Interim CEO Lee May had pushed for a one year moratorium on cityhood initiatives to give DeKalb a chance to assess the impact of incorporation on the county.

At a Jan. 27 meeting with the delegation, May called the current process that allows areas to incorporate detrimental to the county on revenues and expenditures.

“For example, the HOST 1 percent sales tax allows us to use up to 20 percent of the revenues for capital improvments such as sidewalks streets,” he said. “Right now that works out to about $20 million for capital improvements such as sidewalks and streets. But under current rules Dunwoody and Brookhaven get most of that money and we’re left with about $6 million to pay for sidewalks and pot hole repairs on county roads.”

On March 11, May created a 15-member task force to examine all sides of the cityhood issue, even the possiblity of dividing the remainder of DeKalb into municipalities.

The boundary dispute between the proposed Lakeside and Tucker consumed precious time in this year’s fast-track legislative session. The compromise the two sides had apparently worked out over the weekend would have allowed both bills to move forward together. The Lakeside Bill had already cleared the Senate and only needed to pass the House before being sent to Gov. Nathan Deal to be signed into law.

It’s not clear whether Lakeside proponents will return to the General Assembly to try again in 2015 but Tucker advocates said they will pitch the idea again next session and are willing to work again with Lakeside organizers on boundary issues.