Could Buckhead be annexed into the city of Sandy Springs?

The idea has become a topic of neighborhood chatter as a spinoff of longstanding talk of Buckhead becoming its own city. Mary Norwood, chair of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, says she would neither lead nor oppose such a move. But Sandy Springs official say annexation would be difficult and they’re not especially interested.

Sandy Springs City Councilmember Andy Bauman, who represents part of his city bordering the Chastain Park area, is among those who has seen Buckhead annexation chatter on the Nextdoor social media app.

“I’ve read it, and I guess the answer would be, it’s certainly flattering that people want to be a part of Sandy Springs,” Bauman said, adding that “it’s not something that I’m focused on or that I think is very likely.”

The notion of Buckhead breaking off from Atlanta and becoming its own city has been floated for over a decade amid concerns about the neighborhood not getting enough city services and in debates fraught with overtones of race and class. Norwood attended a 2008 meeting about the cityhood idea, and has since lost two close and bitter races for mayor in 2009 and 2017.

The Buckhead cityhood idea revived last year when a wealthy area of Stockbridge, Ga., attempted to become its own city of Eagle’s Landing in a move shot down by voters. There was no organized Buckhead cityhood movement, but Atlanta City Councilmember Howard Shook was among those making approving comments on the Eagle’s Landing effort. Sam Massell, a former Atlanta mayor and president of the Buckhead Coalition, spoke out against cityhood.

Cityhood talk has continued in such forums as Nextdoor, where the idea of Sandy Springs annexation has become a prominent sub-topic. “I wonder if it would be easier to join Sandy Springs v[ersus] start a full-on separate city?” wondered one resident in a January chat on Chastain Park’s Nextdoor group.

Jane Collins, president of the Pleasant Hills Civic Association, raised the idea at the February meeting of Neighborhood Planning Unit A, saying that joining Sandy Springs might be one way to improve police staffing levels amid concerns about crime and traffic.

Norwood said she has not heard the Sandy Springs annexations discussions, at least “not in any organized fashion,” and is hopeful that groups like BCN help Buckhead residents feel heard by Atlanta’s city government. But, she added, her position on the related issue of cityhood has been that “I will neither lead the charge to leave the city” nor oppose anyone else who wants to.

“If people want to do it, I wouldn’t stand in their way,” Norwood said of the annexation idea.

Sandy Springs city spokesperson Sharon Kraun did not say whether anyone has contacted officials about the idea, but she commented on the complicated process.

“As the surrounding area is incorporated, there would have to be a de-annexation before Sandy Springs could annex [Buckhead],” Kraun said. “That would require agreement of both municipalities or the action [would have to be] done via local legislation. It is not on the city’s current agenda of priorities.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.