STOCKBRIDGE — Just days before a Senate committee is expected to vote on a bill for the proposed city of Eagle’s Landing, Stockbridge officials held a press conference Monday morning in attempt to shed more light on the “devastating effects of the proposal.”
Eagle’s Landing Educational Research Committee formed in January 2017 to push for a new city in and around the Eagle’s Landing area of Stockbridge. The proposal was brought forth to Georgia legislators during the 2017 legislative session.
“The issue that we face is fairly simple. One group of individuals who currently reside in the Eagle’s Landing area wants to take 50 percent of established land and parcels from the city of Stockbridge for their own taking. This is straightforward and it’s absolutely wrong. There’s no other way to put it,” said Stockbridge Mayor Anthony Ford. “The proposal is like no other that we’ve ever seen before in the state of Georgia. I’m asking every citizen in the city of Stockbridge to join me in standing up against what’s illegal and unprecedented.”
Senator Emanuel Jones, a Democrat, represents all of Stockbridge and said the proposed Eagle’s Landing bills — Senate bills 262 and 263 and House bills 638 and 639— “violates every norm we have in the G.A.”
SB 262 and HB 638, if approved by legislators, would de-annex certain properties from the city of Stockbridge. If the city of Eagle’s Landing charter bills (SB 263 and HB 639) are approved, and the city creation is approved by voters, those properties would become part of the new city. It is unclear which citizens will have the opportunity to vote on the city’s creation.
“We in the General Assembly have never ever de-annexed from one city to turn around and annex into another. In the history of this great state that action has never ever occurred. All of them have been incorporated from unincorporated areas of the county,” said Jones, adding that the bills were sponsored by two legislators who work for a law firm in the Eagle’s Landing area.
Demetrius Douglas, D-Stockbridge, represents nearly all of Stockbridge in the Georgia House and said he was never contacted by any Eagle’s Landing residents or his fellow legislators about the proposal.
“We have rules in our General Assembly for a reason, and all of those rules have been broken to this day,” said Douglas. “I’m ashamed to say they can’t reach across the aisle and ask ‘Is it OK for us to do this ordeal?’ Today we want to stand up in unity for this. If it happened to this city, it will also happen to your city.”
HB 638 and 639 have been read twice in the House. However, Douglas, who sits on the intergovernmental committee, said the committee did not have any meetings prior to the bills being brought to the House floor. The committee is typically assigned all local legislation, or bills that primarily affect only one political subdivision such as a city or a county, processed through the House and is also assigned general legislation affecting a variety of subjects including local governments, according to the General Assembly website.
City officials say the proposal would take away 50 percent of Stockbridge’s commercial corridors, thus resulting in devastating financial effects on the city.
“The truth about the situation is clear to us. This one group of individuals are choosing to create their own city and selectively cherry pick from our existing parcels,” said Mayor Pro Tem Lakeisha Gantt. “This extreme and unfair proposal would rob the city of Stockbridge from primary commercial corridors, which would severely reduce the amount of revenues for our governmental operations.
She added the removal of high-valued homes would adversely impact the city’s ability “to offer services at current levels without requiring an overly excessive millage rate on the remaining residential property owners.”
She and Community Development Director Camilla Moore said the bills also infringe on the rights of the people of Stockbridge to vote on the proposal.
“HB 638 and 639 don’t advocate that all of the existing voters of the city of Stockbridge receive the opportunity to cast their vote,” Gantt said. “All residents of the city of Stockbridge would be negatively affected. This robs decent Americans of their rights. I can only imagine when the full truth and motive is completely made transparent, that this proposed action will trouble you as well.”
Moore said the bills go against the pillars of the county’s democracy, and would be creating a racial and socioeconomic divide.
“Every citizen having the right to vote would be denied to Stockbridge only because those who created this boundary chose to believe that those left out of the boundary weren’t worthy enough because of their economic status,” she said. “Stockbridge will celebrate 100 years of existence in 2020 as a proud community with a rich heritage. Let the history not record that the demise of this great city was at the hands of our legislators.”
Jones said SB 262 and 263 are scheduled for a vote Thursday in the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee. He encouraged the committee’s chairman to have a hearing on the bills before proceeding with the vote.
Eagle’s Landing Educational Research Committee members said they are seeking cityhood to have oversight of parks and recreation, enhance public safety, attract high-end restaurants and have local control over land use and development.
The Herald reached out to Vikki Consiglio, chair of the ELERC for a comment regarding the press conference. She emailed the following statement:
“There is a process in place for the establishment of new cities in the State of Georgia. The organizers of the City of Eagle’s Landing are following that process.”