Attend one of the many meetings promoting the proposed city of South Fulton, and you're likely to hear some variation of this:
If we do not create the city of South Fulton, the Georgia General Assembly will force you into an existing city of their choosing.
Cityhood advocate Harold Reid told residents gathered at a March, 2014 Cliftondale Community Club meeting that one of the pro-city organizations, South Fulton United, was formed to "protect ourselves against forced annexation into existing cities" [Lesser, Gayle (2 April 2014). March 2014 Minutes. Cliftondale Community Club. Retrieved on 29 January 2015.].
Fulton County government employee James Reese, a resident of unincorporated south Fulton, wrote on the Cascade Patch website, "My family and I are under the threat of forced annexation vs city hood. No choice vs a choice. I choose CITYHOOD."
Even Fairburn Mayor Mario Avery raised the spectre of forced annexation by the state legislature in his annual State of the City address.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) contains an entire section governing annexation.
O.C.G.A. 36-36-20 through 36-36-23 describes the 100% method. O.C.G.A. 36-36-30 through 36-36-40 covers the 60% method. O.C.G.A. 36-36-50 through 36-36-61 talks about the resolution and referendum method. And O.C.G.A. 36-36-15 through 36-36-16 discusses legislative annexation.
Susan Moore, who serves as General Counsel for the Georgia Municipal Association, puts this in plain English for us.
". . .the Georgia General Assembly may change a municipality’s boundaries and annex property into the municipal limits by enacting local legislation. Where more than fifty percent of an area proposed for annexation by local act is 'used for residential purposes' and the number of residents to be annexed exceeds 3 percent of the city’s current population or 500 people, whichever is less, a referendum on annexation must be held in the area to be annexed."
With an estimated population approaching 100,000 people, there are very few areas in unincorporated south Fulton County that could avoid legislative annexation without a referendum.
If the Georgia General Assembly wanted to force Old National Highway and Flat Shoals Road into Union City, there would have to be a referendum. If the legislature wanted to force Cliftondale into Fairburn, there would have to be a referendum. If lawmakers wanted to force Welcome All Road into East Point, there would have to be a referendum.
It would then be up to the registered voters in each affected area to approve or reject the Georgia General Assembly's move to place them in an existing city.