The future of several proposals for new cities in DeKalb County remained unclear as lawmakers returned to the state Capitol.
Part of the problem is that the proposed cities of Briarcliff, Lakeside and Tucker overlap in the area of Northlake Mall. Lawmakers and city proponents said efforts failed to resolve border disputes among the competing proposals in the days before the 2014 Legislature convened Jan. 13.
“We have tried,” said Mary Kay Woodworth, chairwoman of the Lakeside City Alliance. “We have met with Tucker several times and are having a difficult time coming to a resolution. We have different ideas of what should be Lakeside and what should be Tucker.”
Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, said none of the three potential cities had a formal committee hearing in the first days of the session.
But members of the DeKalb County Legislative Delegation held a pre-session meeting with advocates for creating new cities Jan. 9 in an effort to untangle the mess of overlapping proposals in the central area of the county.
Representatives from each group made presentations and took questions from legislators. A fourth group, hoping to incorporate a city of Stonecrest in southeast DeKalb, also presented.
“This is an important issue for DeKalb County, and we want to make sure we hear from different cityhood proposals so we can make the best decisions,” said Rep. Howard Mosby, D-Atlanta, chairman of the delegation.
To make matters more complicated, existing cities are also looking to expand their borders.
“Every city in DeKalb County has had plans to annex except for Dunwoody,” said Mark Baggett, managing director of the DeKalb Municipal Association.
Allen Venet, president of the City of Briarcliff Initiative, said his group’s proposal would create a large, inclusive city.
“The borders of Briarcliff are sensible. They’re logical,” Venet said. “We are not reaching out and grabbing any commercial properties. It’s the fairest approach.”
He said his organization believes two of the three cities could coexist in the area.
“We’ve had some friendly discussions with Tucker, and we agree on a great deal with Tucker,” Venet said. “We absolutely think Tucker should be a city.”
Woodworth said her organization was the first to propose incorporating. She said it has been a grassroots effort from people tired of the status quo.
“We’ve had over 75 meetings over the last 12 months, large and small,” Woodworth said. “We feel we’ve reached out to the best of our ability to get this information out to the community.”
Frank Auman of Tucker 2014 said one of the reasons his group wants to form a city is to keep the Tucker community intact. He said many residents were concerned when they saw portions of what they considered to be Tucker drawn into other maps for new cities.
“Our concern was, Tucker’s about to lose its identity,” Auman said.
Auman said what makes Tucker different from the other cityhood efforts is that it has a longstanding community history. There are highway signs that tell you how to get to Tucker and a downtown area, he said. “People know Tucker is a place,” Auman said. “A lot of people already think it’s a city.”
Mosby encouraged the groups to continue working together to try to reach a resolution for their conflicting maps.
“We’ll be interested in any negotiated agreements between the parties,” Mosby said. “We will have to work this out in some way, form or fashion.”
Jacobs said logistically, the Lakeside bill has the best chance of approval because it is sponsored by Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody. The other two bills are sponsored by members of the House of Representatives.
“I don’t have a particular dog in this hunt. But as an interested observer I can say the only proposal that appears poised to move forward is Lakeside, and that is because there is no question Sen. Millar will be able to get a hearing and committee vote on that over in the Senate,” Jacobs said.
“The Senate is smaller, highly collegial. There simply are more of us on the House side, and more competing legislation.”