DeKalb Commission to call for cityhood impact study as Greenhaven moves through legislature

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The Gist: As the proposed City of Greenhaven in south DeKalb makes its way through the state legislature again, DeKalb County is expected to call for a study Tuesday of how new cities impact the county’s ability to deliver services.

The Cost: The study will cost $86,000 and will be completed by the Carl Vinson Institute.

Why fund a study?: Ever since Sandy Springs won its long-fought incorporation battle, new cities have been cropping up so fast that it is becoming impossible to determine which city is now “Georgia’s newest city,” a moniker each new city likes to boast on promotional materials. In DeKalb alone, Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Tucker and Stonecrest have all incorporated in the last 10 years. Greenhaven isn’t the only proposed new city in the county either. Another proposal would carve out the city of Vista Grove, which would run just southeast of Brookhaven, Chamblee and Doraville.

The county is concerned that the new city’s will take necessary revenue away from the county that it needs to provide services to unincorporated areas and those new cities. While some cities create their own services for police and fire, the county is still on the hook for court services, county parks that fall within the city limits and trash and recycling services. The study is designed to determine whether or not new cities are depleting the county’s ability to serve its citizens.

Where is Greenhaven?: If Greenhaven were to become a city, it would have a huge population on day one. according to Imagine Greenhaven, the advocacy group for the proposed city, the population estimate within the new city’s boundaries was 294,000 in 2015. The group describes the area of Greenhaven as covering “all area south of U.S. Route 78 until it hits I-285 and then all area south of Memorial Drive until it hits the eastern border of DeKalb County excluding all incorporated cities within these boundaries.”

The process: The state legislature can’t just make a new city. However, it has to approve the proposed city’s charter before any formal plans can move forward. If the legislature approves the charter, the residents who live within the boundaries of the proposed city will have a chance to vote on whether or not they want cityhood. If the residents vote in favor of the new city, they have to head to the polls again before the city opens for business to elect a mayor and council members. Right now, the bill is a house second reader. It hasn’t been passed yet. If it isn’t passed by the house by crossover day, the bill will die and will need to be refiled next session. If it does pass the house by crossover day, the senate will have to vote on it.

Can it happen?: Based on the recent history of incorporations in Georgia, the odds are in Greenhaven’s favor. However, based on Greenhaven’s prior track record, it may not happen this year. The Greenhaven bill isn’t new to the state legislature. It has been filed for the last four years and hasn’t passed yet.