|Crush of DeKalb cityhood proposals include ‘City of Stonecrest’|
|Written by Valerie J. Morgan|
Jason Lary is leading the way to create a new city in DeKalb County’s far Southeast. He envisions a City Hall there, a civic center where cultural arts and conferences can be held, communities where property values are solid and a place where commerce is king. The new city of Stonecrest is on the horizon, says Lary, who has gotten the support of Sen. Ronald Ramsey, Sr., whose District 43 includes the Stonecrest area.
Ramsey has filed a bill—Senate Bill 278—to start what he calls meaningful discussions about the possibility of cityhood for the Stonecrest area. Sen. Jason Carter, District 42, and Sen. Gail Davenport, District 44, are co-sponsors of the bill.
“I’m doing what my constituents asked me to do. It is something that we will look at during next year’s Legislature, but we will start discussions on it this summer,” Ramsey said.
Lary, who lives in the Stonecrest area, says he became interested in the creation of Stonecrest as a city, as he waited for a civic center that never came and as he saw his property values plummet.
“I can’t get a loan against my house to send my son to college. It’s underwater,” said Lary. “We’ve got to bring the property values back up. We’ve got to have people who are concerned about our area focused on our area. We need that civic center. ”
Lary says three meetings are scheduled this summer, starting June 10, for residents to learn more about the city of Stonecrest and to give their input.
Stonecrest is not the only new city that could be created in DeKalb. This month, State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) is leading a town hall meeting where the DeKalb County Legislative Delegation will discuss other cityhood or annexations bills that may be considered during the Georgia General Assembly’s 2014 legislative session, including House Bill 22, House Bill 619, House Bill 665, House Bill 677, House Bill 687, Senate Bill 270, and Senate Bill 275, and Senate Bill 277. These bills could lead to new areas being annexed into Chamblee and Decatur, as well as create new DeKalb cities of Druid Hills, LaVista Hills, Lakeside, Stonecrest, City of DeKalb, and Tucker. The discussion will include information on the costs of planning for new cities, possible tax implications, the legislative process of creating new cities, ongoing cityhood activities, and other alternative local governance options.
Former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones says he believes that DeKalb is headed for disaster with so many DeKalb cities in the works. Furthermore, he says, the new cities are just another way to erode economic power and “bleach government.”
“What I told them 10 years ago, now the roosters have come to roost. Unincorporated DeKalb needs to be incorporated into a city now. No more and no less,” said Jones. “To incorporate DeKalb with an existing footprint is a financial plus for the taxpayers of DeKalb. It prevents the cherry-picking of annexation and incorporation by those who want to separate themselves and bleach government.”
Sen. Davenport says she, too, is concerned that DeKalb will indeed lose more commercial revenues if more cities are incorporated. Davenport said she co-signed SB 277, along with Sen. Ramsey, to create a city of DeKalb to protect what’s left.
“It seems that every other day, there was a new bill being dropped with a new city. People in South DeKalb are concerned that there’s not going to be anything left of DeKalb if we don’t do something,” said Davenport. “Creating a city of DeKalb is really a way to protect what’s left and start conversations about where we’re going.”
DeKalb Commissioner Johnson said the lawmakers’ move to file a bill to create a city of DeKalb has gotten the ball rolling.
“I think it’s a good conversation piece. From an economic standpoint, we’re losing revenues, parks, police stations and fire stations to areas that are incorporating and buying them for $5,000 when all of the taxpayers have paid for them,” said Johnson, who said he has thought about creating the city of Prosperity. “We’ve got to have a discussion because we’re losing our wealth.”
The DeKalb County Legislative Delegation will hold a town hall meeting on Monday, May 6, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Clairmont Hills Baptist Church, 1995 Clairmont Drive, Decatur. The various bills to create cities and annexation of some areas will be discussed.