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27 May 2016

County Staff Finds No Reason to Stop Annexation Proposals by Union City, College Park, & Atlanta

South Fulton cityhood advocates knew this day was coming.

It's the day when many annexation petitions, submitted to various cities by property owners and registered voters, would come before the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.

For those wanting to create a new city called South Fulton, they hoped staff in the Fulton County Planning and Community Services Department would find a legal reason to stop other cities from annexing land. They didn't.

Georgia law says Fulton County can only object to annexation requests because of a material increase in burden upon the county directly related to any one or more of the following: (1) The proposed change in zoning or land use; (2) Proposed increase in density; and (3) Infrastructure demands related to the proposed change in zoning or land use.

Fulton County Planning and Community Services staff reviewed the annexation requests from Union City, College Park, and Atlanta. The verdict was the same on page after page.

Staff has found no basis upon which to file a valid objection and seeks the Board's approval to notify the cities of Atlanta, College Park, and Union City accordingly.

Cityhood proponents fear too much annexation of unincorporated south Fulton County could doom their hopes to create the City of South Fulton. And their fears do have merit.

Dr. Peter Bluestone, the man who authored the report declaring South Fulton financially viable, told Georgia Unfiltered there's no way to say if the proposed city would remain viable following large scale annexation of valuable properties by other localities.

"You really have to look at these things with the numbers, and they haven't been presented to me," Dr. Bluestone said. "It may be possible. There's just no way to say if they annex this much property, then it doesn't work. If they don't, then it does."

These annexation proposals by Union City, College Park, and Atlanta amount to 649 acres.

Fulton County Commissioner Marvin Arrington, who supports creating a new City of South Fulton, says he believes the proposed government will still work even in the face of such a large annexation.

Arrington, nevertheless, opposes the annexations. He plans on voting no on any commercial annexation that comes before the Fulton County Commission.

"I'm voting no to any commercial annexation before June 30th," Commissioner Arrington wrote in an email exchange with Georgia Unfiltered. "I don't believe it's fair to the new city."

Fulton County Commissioners are expected to take up the Atlanta, College Park, and Union City annexation petitions at their 1 June 2016 meeting.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber Invests in the Future with Millennial Leaders Council

Writing for Forbes last November, millennial marketing consultant Jeff Fromm highlighted a Bureau of Labor Statistics prediction that U.S. citizens aged 18 - 34 would be the largest generation in the workplace by the end of 2015.

It is no longer a prediction. It is now reality.

The United States is now witnessing a workforce transition from the Baby Boomers to the Millennial generation, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber is taking note.

“Atlanta is truly a city where young professionals can come and make their mark,” said Fred Roselli, senior director of communications for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “Today, more than 70,000 young professionals, ages 20 to 39, call Atlanta home, and the city is one of the fastest-growing metros for this demographic in the country."

(Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Fred Roselli, chair of ATLeaders speak to the crowd at the launch party. Image courtesy Metro Atlanta Chamber/Komich Photography. )
The Metro Atlanta Chamber tapped Roselli to head up a new initiative called ATLeaders.

ATLeaders is the Metro Atlanta Chamber's first ever council comprised solely of business professionals under 40. The council will focus on providing young leaders with access to the business community, a network of their peers and the ability to create social impact, specifically in the areas of transit and food insecurities.

Roselli says ATLeaders was launched to keep the region in the forefront of Millenial growth, and to set Atlanta's next generation up for success.

"Everything we do now plays an integral role in the future prosperity of our city," Roselli said.

Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, spoke favorably of the new ATLeaders council during its kickoff party at Ponce City Market.

"The council members that comprise ATLeaders are on their way to the C-suite, leading community organizations and more,” said Moddelmog. “My vision is that one day these council members will also serve on MAC’s board of directors, and boldly lead our organization into the future. I’m confident that ATLeaders will drive transformative change in Atlanta.”

ATLeaders is chaired by Fred Roselli, senior director of communications for Boys & Girls Clubs of America; and co-chaired by Jennifer Hall, environmental affairs general manager at Georgia Power; Amol Naik, corporate counsel at Google; and Tyler Rogers, pied popper of partying at King of Pops. It has a 25-member steering committee and is open to all MAC members under 40.

ATLeaders will meet on a quarterly basis to tackle the immediate needs of the organizations it supports as well as future initiatives.

25 May 2016

South Fulton Tells Bill Edwards, "We Don't Want You Back"

(Former Fulton County Commissioner William "Bill" Edwards [pictured far left] wanted voters to bring him back to his old job. The voters told him no in the 24 May 2016 General Primary. Image courtesy William "Bill" Edwards.)
Former Fulton County Commissioner William "Bill" Edwards summed up his 2016 election campaign in three short words.

Bring Bill Back.

It was a slogan featured prominently on most of Bill Edwards' campaign materials.

Bring Bill Back.

Bill wanted his old job back following his defeat at the hands of Emma Darnell two years ago, and he hoped voters in his old district would bring him back. Bill only lost by 378 votes, after all.

But as the polls closed on 24 May 2016, it became clear that South Fulton did not want Bill back. Voters in Fulton County Commission district 6 decided they wanted to keep Emma Darnell for four more years.

Unofficial election results show that Darnell beat Bill by an even larger margin than in 2014. Darnell won 59 precincts and received 3,773 more votes than Bill Edwards in the 2016 Democratic General Primary. Compare that to the 32 precincts where Edwards beat Darnell, in their 2014 matchup, and Emma's 2016 electoral victory looks even more resounding.

In the simplest terms, Commissioner Emma Darnell managed to move nearly every precinct she lost in 2014 over to her column in 2016.

William "Bill" Edwards, the man given the title of "mayor of South Fulton" by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, lost; and he lost bad.

Now the question is whether Bill will be back again for the next election, or is his political career finally over.

23 May 2016

South Fulton Feasibility Study Author: No Way to Determine Annexation Impact without New Study

Is the proposed city of South Fulton financially viable?

Some say yes, and point to a 2014 Georgia State University study that confirms their belief.

Others point to the wide swath of annexations occurring after the 2014 study was produced, and say no . . .

"You really have to look at these things with the numbers, and they haven't been presented to me," Dr. Bluestone said. "It may be possible. There's just no way to say if they annex this much property, then it doesn't work. If they don't, then it does."

-Dr. Peter Bluestone, author, Report on the City of South Fulton: Potential Revenues and Expenditures
. . . the proposed city of South Fulton is not viable.

Since the South Fulton cityhood movement was revived in 2013, after a six year hiatus, registered voters and property owners have flooded local municipalities with annexation petitions in an effort to beat the 1 July 2016 deadline before South Fulton's borders are locked for the November referendum.

In a report to the Fulton County Commission late last year, county staff put a hard count on the amount of unincorporated south Fulton land lost to annexation. Fulton County received ten petitions for annexations from five different cities, accounting for nearly 9.6% of the land in unincorporated south Fulton. That amount adds up to 2,480 people and 6,275 acres. These numbers do not include the annexation petitions recently received by Atlanta, Chattahoochee Hills, and College Park.

Given these numbers, some are questioning whether the proposed city of South Fulton is still viable.

South Fulton United, a pro-city group, says yes.

An exchange with cityhood skeptics on the South Fulton United Facebook page (pictured right) seemed to dismiss the impact of annexations.

"Petitions don't mean a thing until they are approved," South Fulton United posted. "But guess what? Whether Publix and those Cascade businesses goe [sic] to Atlanta or not we get their money without having to spend city resources to provide fire and police for the area. So its a win win. We don't have to provide services, but we still get revenue because we will be one of the 3 required signatures for LOST."

Dr. Peter Bluestone, Senior Research Associate with the Fiscal Research Center at Georgia State University, says it's a bit more complicated than that.

"Cities do have flexibility," Dr. Bluestone said. "Once a city is incorporated, they obviously have choices on their level of taxation and on their level of services to be provided; and they can change that mix.

Bluestone, along with Dr. John Matthews, authored the 2014 Report on the City of South Fulton: Potential Revenues and Expenditures.

"Based on these estimates and given the assumptions that are detailed in this report, we find that the City of South Fulton is financially feasible," the report reads.

In a telephone interview with Georgia Unfiltered, Dr. Bluestone said the 2014 feasibility study was a snapshot in time.

"What we put out was a report based on the situation as it was when we wrote the report," Dr. Bluestone told Georgia Unfiltered. "Given the amount of revenue and the level of expenditure, does this city look like its viable?"

When asked if the proposed city of South Fulton could remain viable in the face of finalized and pending annexations, Dr. Bluestone called it an "interesting situation."

"You really have to look at these things with the numbers, and they haven't been presented to me," Dr. Bluestone said. "It may be possible. There's just no way to say if they annex this much property, then it doesn't work. If they don't, then it does.

"If someone is to ask us to comment on the changes, then we would have to do a new report," Dr. Bluestone conceded.

Fulton County Commissioner Marvin Arrington, who represents part of the proposed city, says he believes the area is still viable even with the pending annexation requests.

Still, Arrington said, he plans on voting no on any commercial annexation that comes before the Fulton County Commission.

"I'm voting no to any commercial annexation before June 30th," Commissioner Arrington wrote in an email exchange with Georgia Unfiltered. "I don't believe it's fair to new city. If annexations are not completed by June 30th then they can not go forward. I will ask all other commissioners to do the same."

20 May 2016

Publix, Wal-Mart & Other Businesses Seek ATL Annexation to Avoid Possible City of South Fulton

In April, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed sent a letter to unincorporated south Fulton County business owners, urging them to consider annexation over creating a new city called South Fulton.

The letter, obtained by WXIA-TV, read in part, "As a commercial/industrial property-owner in the proposed area, you do not have the right to vote in the upcoming referendum unless you also reside in the proposed area.

"The City of Atlanta has maintained an open-door policy of welcoming property owners and residents who are interested in annexing into Atlanta city limits," the Reed letter continues. "We are extending an opportunity for you to discuss the option of annexing into the City of Atlanta should you oppose being incorporated into the new City of South Fulton."

Georgia Unfiltered has learned, through open records requests, that quite a few businesses in the Cascade Road area have taken Atlanta's Mayor up on his offer.

(Publix and Wal Mart are among the businesses seeking annexation into Atlanta over incorporation into the proposed new City of South Fulton.)
Atlanta has received five different annexation petitions totaling 220.8 acres worth $50,535,270. Included in the annexation request is the entire Cascade Crossing shopping center, anchored by Publix; as well as the Cascade Wal Mart and other valuable commercial properties.

This $50 million annexation request by commercial property owners is the largest to date, since Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 514, the so-called South Fulton cityhood bill, into law. College Park recently received annexation petitions for 142.7 acres of commercial property valued at $32 million.

Under House Bill 514, property owners and registered voters have until 1 July 2016 to annex out of the proposed city of South Fulton before the borders are locked for the November referendum.

Atlanta Cascade Annexations by Andre Walker

Union City Considering Pitch to Rename Shannon Way in Honor of Atlanta Metro Studios

(Construction crews replace the old Union Station mall sign with a new Atlanta Metro Studios sign in Union City. Image courtesy Atlanta Metro Studios.)
Like the mythical phoenix, from the ashes of the old Shannon Mall rises new sound stages for Georgia's booming film and tv industry.

Phase 1 construction on Atlanta Metro Studios, which started in 2014, is nearly complete in Union City. Crews recently replaced the former Shannon Mall/Union Station sign with a simple, but elegant Atlanta Metro Studios sign.

Any doubt of the project's impact on Union City is all but gone. Now, Rooker, the development company that spearheaded this entire effort, is seeking one more lasting change to Union City's landscape.

On 23 May 2016, the Union City Planning Commission will consider an application from Rooker to rename Shannon Way, the main street that leads to Atlanta Metro Studios, Studio Way.

Shannon Way is a short street, off of Jonesboro Road. Businesses on Shannon Way include Zaxby's, Suntrust Bank, and the Quality Inn hotel.

If the Union City Planning Commission signs off on the proposed name change, it will go to the Union City City Council for final approval.

Atlanta Metro Studios is managed by 404 Studio Partners.

Atlanta to Annex 57 Acres of APS-Owned Property Before 1 July Deadline, School Board Member Says

Near Cascade Road and Research Center Drive, next to the Wal Mart and Home Depot, sits 57.6 acres of undeveloped land valued at $2,446,200.

Atlanta Public Schools owns this 57.6 acre property, but the land is not within Atlanta's city limits. This APS-owned land, adjacent to Mays High School, is located in unincorporated south Fulton County. If south Fulton becomes a city in November, this Atlanta-owned property might be incorporated into the proposed city's borders.

However, that isn't likely to happen, according to Atlanta School Board member Steven Lee.

Lee, who represents the area, says, "Given the deadline in the law, we are moving forward with making a request to the city for annexation."

House Bill 514, the so-called city of South Fulton bill, contains a 1 July 2016 deadline for municipalities such as Atlanta to complete annexation requests filed by property owners and registered voters who would rather be in an established city instead of a newly-created start-up city.

Any land not annexed by 1 July will be included in the boundaries of the proposed city of South Fulton.

Interestingly enough, by bringing Atlanta Public Schools' property into the city, Atlanta could trigger a rarely used legal provision that would result in Atlanta gaining more residents as well.

State law prohibits unincorporated islands; that is land bounded on all four sides by one or more cities, but not inside a city itself.

If Atlanta follows through with annexing the 57.6 acre Atlanta Public Schools land, the two parcels (shown right) next door would be surrounded on all sides by the city, forcing Atlanta to annex that property too.

(Atlanta Public Schools owns 57.6 acres, shaded in red, that is currently unincorporated. The annexation of this land would almost certainly result in the property to the north, along Benjamin E. Mays Drive, being annexed by Atlanta as well. Image courtesy Fulton County GIS. )
The Georgia Municipal Association publication, "Growing Cities, Growing Georgia: A Guide to Georgia's Annexation Law," says state law authorizes the unilateral annexation of unincorporated islands.

A city only needs to send a letter to the property owner, telling them of the planned annexation, before the adoption of an annexation ordinance.

19 May 2016

Sunset Music Festival Plans to Heat Up Tampa with Hot Lineup and Even Hotter After Parties

(Seven Lions will headline one of four official Sunset Music Festival after parties in Tampa, Florida, Memorial Day Weekend.)
The forecast in Tampa, next weekend, says there's a chance for rain. But that definitely isn't going to stop thousands of music fans from dancing their clothes off at the 2016 Sunset Music Festival.

Organized by Disco Donnie Presents, Sunset Events, and Heartbeat International, Sunset Music Festival is back for its fifth consecutive year at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium.

The Memorial Day Weekend dance party will be jam-packed with DJs such as Jack U, Hardwell, Galantis, Chainsmokers, and many more!

The party won't stop after the festival lights dim at the stadium. The Chainsmokers, Seven Lions, NGHTMRE, and Zomboy are all headlining four official after parties that will certainly keep the party going all night long.

The two-day event, scheduled for 28 - 29 May 2016, now offers the Affirm pay-as-you-go option to purchase tickets.

Sunset Music Festival features over 45 of the most in-demand DJs and music producers in the industry throughout three stages. Festival organizers expect an audience of over 60,000 attendees, which is 10,000 more than last year.

SMF Tickets are still on Sale! Grab your tix HERE

This report was compiled by Jessica Revolver.

Fulton County Defends Booting Pro-City of South Fulton Event

Following the abrupt cancellation of a pro-city of South Fulton organizing meeting at a public building last week, Fulton County officials defended their decision to kick a campaign event out of the South Fulton County Government Service Center.

County officials also clarified their position on political activities in county-owned facilities.

In an 25 April 2016 email sent to county employees, and provided to Georgia Unfiltered by Fulton County Director of External Affairs Jessica Corbitt, it is stated clearly, "Fulton County policy prohibits political activity in County facilities and by County employees during work hours."

This email, pictured below, raises new questions about how an overtly political meeting found its way to a county-owned property.

South Fulton cityhood advocates say they were transparent about stating their event was political in nature. An email from Fulton County Attorney Patrise Perkins-Hooker suggests otherwise.

Rodney Littles, speaking for the "People's campaign for Vote Yes for a City in South Fulton," wrote on the group's Facebook page, "The People's Campaign is a People's Movement comprised of the largest number of Homeowner Associations in the history of Fulton County, finding space to accommodate such a large group was important and was made clear when the arrangements to use public space were made."

County Attorney Patrise Perkins-Hooker, in an email obtained by Georgia Unfiltered, writes, "The parties who originally reserved the facility did so for a neighborhood association meeting.

"Since the topic is clearly one that is not allowed under our existing county policies, we have notified the convener to find another location and cancel the meeting tonight."

The pro-cityhood meeting was originally scheduled for 16 May 2016. Cityhood organizers ultimately held their meeting at a nearby church, where they say over 200 people attended.