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14 January 2014

Debate Over New Cities in DeKalb & Fulton Counties Helps Revive Talk About Creating Townships

2013 ended with communities and neighborhoods debating whether five proposed cities in DeKalb and Fulton counties should be created.

With the 2014 legislative session beginning this week, supporters and opponents of the proposed cities of Briarcliff, Lakeside, South Fulton, Stonecrest, and Tucker are now taking their deliberations to the halls of power in an effort to either pass or kill each respective cityhood bill.

State Representative Michele Henson (D - Stone Mountain) added another layer to the discussion of local governance, Monday, when she introduced House Resolution 1036; a resolution creating the House Study Committee on Townships.

Municipal corporations, more commonly known as cities, are the only form of local government authorized under the Georgia Constitution.

Rep. Henson's resolution would task five members of the House with examining the best way for unincorporated communities to exercise local control over local issues such as planning and zoning without shouldering the costs associated with starting a new government from scratch.

"The residents of many unincorporated areas of counties in this state desire to exercise some degree of control over development and growth in their areas as well as exercise control over certain limited services provided by government to the areas," Henson's resolution reads. "These same residents, however, do not see the need for an incorporated municipal government with its attendant costs and additional bureaucracy; and these residents fear that their neighborhoods will be swallowed by municipal annexation or that county services will be reduced due to budgetary constraints caused by the annexation of many of the prime areas of their communities."

H.R. 1036 marks the second time Georgia General Assembly has been asked to consider a middle ground, between creating a new city and keeping an area unincorporated.

In 2008, state Senator David Adelman introduced the Georgia Townships Act (Senate Bill 89). The bill, if passed, would have allowed townships to be created in Georgia, with the power to regulate zoning and land use. Other city services, like police and fire, would still be provided by the county. In addition, the Georgia Townships Act protected communities organized into a township from being annexed by a neighboring city.

Senate Bill 89 and its companion legislation, Senate Resolution 130, both cleared the upper chamber with more than two-thirds of Senators supporting the bill. However, the measures stalled out in the House.