Bills to create three new cities in DeKalb County still are being considered as the Legislative session winds down.
Crossover Day, the 30th day of the 40-day Legislative session, was March 3. Crossover Day usually marks the day a bill must be approved by either the House of Representatives or the Senate if it is to have time to be considered by the other chamber and become law before the end of the session.
But proposals to create new cities in DeKalb County are being handled differently. Though the bill to incorporate a city of Lakeside was the only one of the three DeKalb city bills approved before Crossover Day, the House Governmental Affairs Committee agreed to hold hearings on each of the three proposals before making a recommendation on what the Legislature should do. The hearings for the Briarcliff and Lakeside bills are scheduled for March 6 at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively in Room 606 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.
“I think that this process, as unwieldy as it is, is probably an appropriate one to try to resolve the disputes between these competing cityhood initiatives,” said Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, who represents part of the area that is drawn into the proposed cities.
Holcomb said the committee could recommend a single bill to move forward or could recommend a combination of the proposals. It’s also possible that the groups could work together to resolve their boundary disputes.
“It’s unknown exactly which of these will be successful,” Holcomb said March 4. “There’s just a lot of different things that could potentially happen.”
The three groups — the City of Briarcliff Initiative, the Lakeside City Alliance and Tucker 2014 — are vying to create new cities across the swath of central DeKalb County that runs from the city of Atlanta to the Gwinnett County line. The three proposals overlap in the area of Northlake Mall.
Kevin Levitas, co-chair of the Lakeside City Alliance, said he is confident that his organization’s proposal will be approved by legislators.
“We’re the only bill that moved from one chamber to another, so obviously there is proven support for Lakeside over on the Senate side. We expect we will receive like treatment in the House,” Levitas said.
Levitas said he thinks the Lakeside bill has been the first to receive approval because the Lakeside City Alliance was the first to organize and begin holding community meetings.
“From the get go, our community outreach was stronger, and we started the process earlier than the other groups,” Levitas said.
Some have said that Lakeside was able to get a hearing first because its bill was sponsored by a Republican, Sen. Fran Millar, (R-Dunwoody).
“It certainly doesn’t hurt that we have a sponsor for our bill that’s in the majority party,” Levitas said. “But it would be a great oversimplification to think it’s just that.”
Sonja Szubski, president of Tucker 2014, said Tucker has already had its hearing with the House Governmental Affairs Committee.
“I think everybody is heartened that we were able to have our hearing, and I believe our voices truly are being heard,” Szubski said.
She said she is glad Rep. Amy Carter, (R-Valdosta), and the committee decided to hear proposals from all three groups before making a recommendation.
“I really feel that this is the best way, and I feel Representative Carter and the committee have made the right decision,” Szubski said. “This is going to be a clean way to hear all three and make the right decision as to who should move forward.”
Szubski said she thinks the groups can work out a solution where more than one can incorporate.
“We still have a road ahead of us. But Tucker can incorporate and it would not harm our neighbors from incorporating inside the perimeter,” Szubski said.
Holcomb said though Crossover Day has passed, there are still many options for resolving the complicated situation with the competing cityhood proposals.
“There’s still a lot of time left on the clock,” Holcomb said.