Legislators file bills for proposed cities of Tucker, LaVista Hills

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt March 2, 2015
The Georgia State Capitol. Photo by Ken Lund, obtained via Wikimedia Commons

The Georgia State Capitol. Photo by Ken Lund, obtained via Wikimedia Commons

This story has been updated. 

Members of the state House introduced bills today on behalf of two cityhood proposals: Tucker and LaVista Hills.

Copies of the bills weren’t immediately available.

The Tucker bill’s sponsor is state Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain. The LaVista Hills sponsor is state Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody. The cosponsor is state Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta. Holcomb also cosponsored the Tucker Bill.

According to a press release from LaVista Hills Yes, if that bill is approved this year there will be a referendum in November.

The Tucker and LaVista Hills bills were the result of lengthy negotiations that were ultimately resolved by a special legislative subcommittee in December. That subcommittee approved a map that settled the overlapping boundaries between the two proposed cities. But there was an unresolved issue between the LaVista Hills proposal and an annexation proposal from a group called Together in Atlanta. That proposal would call for a referendum on annexing the Druid Hills community, as well as Emory and the Centers for Disease Control, into the city of Atlanta.

Holcomb said he wasn’t sure if the LaVista Hills map is still in conflict with Together In Atlanta’s map.

“I don’t know and I’ve been trying to get answers to all that as well,” Holcomb said. “What I have been told is the Governmental Affairs Committee, for whatever reason, isn’t going to entertain any changes to the map passed by the subcommittee. The subcommittee’s charge was only to address the issues of the northern border and southern border for Tucker. It was not to address any of the other border issues. He was under the impression that subcommittee took care of everything and that’s not the case. What I would say to those individuals who want to have some adjustments would be to make sure they speak up to the House Governmental Affairs Committee and their voice in the Senate and let their voices be heard.”

Here are the most up-to-date maps Decaturish has regarding the proposed boundaries of LaVista Hills and Tucker.

Holcomb said he did not know why Rep. Taylor is the lead sponsor on the LaVista Hills bill. Taylor does not represent the areas in the proposed city’s map.

“I don’t know the answer. You’d have to ask Tom,” he said. “I wasn’t involved in those discussions. Whatever communications there were between LaVista Hills and Tom, I wasn’t part of them.”

Taylor has not returned several messages from Decaturish seeking comment about the LaVista Hills bill.

Holcomb said his cosponsoring of the bills, “Is consistent with what I’ve said at town hall meetings and my newsletters and my reelection campaign and my testimony, that I would support referendum for these cities.”

“I feel pretty comfortable that my part of the district wants a referendum,” he said. “I know there are issues in other parts of the district and that’s a challenge in terms of having those addressed and those communities listened to, which is something I certainly am supportive of.”

The Tucker Bill is House Bill 515. The LaVista Hills bill is House Bill 520.

LaVista Hills Yes co-chairman Allen Venet said, ““Brookhaven, Sandy Springs and Dunwoody all have lower tax rates than DeKalb County and LaVista Hills will too. Instead of paying DeKalb County for services including police, zoning, and roads, the same tax dollars would shift over to a leaner city government.”

LaVista Hills supporters are currently obtaining an updated financial feasibility study. The study would determine whether the city could generate enough tax money to provide services. The LaVista Hills proposal actually combines to previous cityhood plans: a city of Briarcliff and a city of Lakeside. Those cities merged, and the new study would take that into account as well as the new boundary with the proposed city of Tucker.

“Studies by UGA’s non-partisan Carl Vinson Institute completed for the former Lakeside and Briarcliff cityhood proposals­­­ (the two groups that merged to form LaVista Hills) showed multi-million dollar annual surpluses. Using the new boundaries and CVI’s methodologies, LaVista Hills YES projects the new city will start with a surplus,” the press release from LaVista Hills Yes says.  “CVI is currently conducting a new study for LaVista Hills YES, the results of which will be released when the study is complete.”

In a statement released via Facebook, Tucker 2015 said, “The Tucker community took an important step forward today with the introduction in the House of Representatives of a Bill (HB515) that would allow a referendum to establish a City of Tucker. Sponsored by Rep. Billy Mitchell and co-sponsored by Rep. Scott Holcomb and Rep. Michele Henson, the bill has been assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Committee for consideration.”

This is a developing story. Keep checking Decaturish.com for updates.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Hugh Bean

    Tom Taylor I can almost understand. But it’s atrocious that we cannot count on our Democratic representatives to actually promote and preserve unity and cooperation county-wide. It’s sad that any of them would choose self-interest and division over solidarity and community.

    If you’re looking for leadership in DeKalb, you’re in for disappointment. The new “cities” are so obviously no better. This is clear to anyone who’s taken the time to become informed.

    • MAC

      Hugh, I sense your frustration concerning a lack of leadership in the county, and on many levels, I echo it. When there is a leadership vacuum in most any situation, the natural response is to move toward empowerment, and to do something about it. Cityhood is one of many possible gestures towards empowerment. The DeKalb Strong is another. Which gesture of empowerment will win out in the hearts and minds of the DeKalb masses will be determined at the referenda polls. Sad for some, exciting for many others.

      I do think that it’s a bit premature to conclude that an alternative not yet implemented or brought into fruition is no better than the status quo. Who knows? Who can predict? The outcome(s) remains to be seen. Moreover, the long-term reality of one of the cities might be very different than that of another. New cities are new histories to be written.

      Finally, corruption and incompetence aside, there comes a point when a county reaches a certain size that to speak of “unity” at the county level is impossible, and to require leadership to cultivate it, may be asking too much. Some of the largest counties in the country (Los Angeles County, Cook County–Chicago, Miami-Dade, for example) have HUNDREDS of incorporated cities and municipalities between them. Incorporation frequently speaks to a smaller tier of need, self determination, and identity that would otherwise get swallowed up and overshadowed in a county with hundreds of thousands of residents (millions in the case of the larger U.S. counties that I cited above). Our state’s most populous counties–Fulton, Gwinnnett, and Cobb have dozens of incorporated cities whose numbers seem to match the large size of the respective counties. It appears to me that cityhood is a natural extension of large counties. And if that’s the case, DeKalb is only doing what big counties do.

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