- By Leon Stafford The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The controversy over a proposal to create a city of Eagle’s Landing from existing Stockbridge territory intensified Monday after the state General Assembly moved up a vote on the measure.
The legislature is expected to hold a Senate vote Tuesday on a bill that would allow Eagle’s Landing, a collection of several well-heeled neighborhoods and a golf course in Henry County, to break away from Stockbridge and form a city. Tuesday’s vote is the first of several hurdles the legislation must clear — duplicate bills are winding their way through the House — before the cityhood measure could be put to a referendum vote. Backers say that could happen as early as May.
Supporters of the proposal say the new city, which would have about 17,000 citizens, would offer better services and attract high-end retail and restaurants.
Stockbridge leaders, however, said de-annexing parts of their city to create an Eagle’s Landing municipality would rob Stockbridge of half of its tax base, including lucrative shopping centers and businesses along Ga. 138, a top Henry shopping destination.
In addition, they said the move could force Stockbridge, which stands to lose about 10,000 of its 27,000 residents to Eagle’s Landing, to adopt a city income tax. It could also set a precedent, with others trying to take land already located in a city’s boundaries to form new municipalities, as opposed to cobbling together unincorporated areas.
“Today, we stand unified together to say we won’t stand for this,” state Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge), who opposes the de-annexation, said at a press conference Monday. “If it will happen to this city, it will also happen to your city.”
The battle over the proposal has escalated since former Sen. Rick Jeffares introduced the legislation in spring 2017. Each side has held dozens of meetings — some for the general public, others in specific neighborhoods — to explain the benefits and drawbacks of cityhood. Both have studies that back their arguments and both say the other side is being disingenuous.
Race also is playing a role in the division. The city of Stockbridge and its leadership is majority black while many of the backers of cityhood are white.
“For the first time in the history of Georgia, these bills would allow a non-government entity to de-annex over 50 percent of an existing community (and) its commercial and residential base, creating a racial and social economic divide,” Stockbridge Community Development Director Camilla Moore said at the Monday press conference.
Vikki Consiglio, one of the architects of the Eagle’s Landing cityhood movement, dismissed such characterizations of the proposed city.
“This is not about throwing Stockbridge under the bus or Henry County,” she said. “I love the county I live in. I have friends in Stockbridge and have nothing against either.”
Residents living in the area that would become Eagle’s Landing have few city amenities to show for the amount of money they pay in taxes, said Consiglio, chairwoman of a committee that describes itself as a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to educating the community about Eagle’s Landing’s viability as a city.
“They are paying the taxes, but they are not getting the services they need,” said Consiglio, who lives in unincorporated Henry, but would be in the city of Eagle’s Landing if cityhood is approved. “We have no libraries, no public parks, no community centers or senior centers. We have nothing. They are taking our money, but we don’t get the services.”
Consiglio, who is white, also rejected accusations that race is playing a role in the desire to break away. The majority of the city’s residents — around 47 percent — would be black, while white people would make up 39 percent of the population. About 8 percent of the city would be Asian and about 6 percent Hispanic.
Glenn Moore, who also lives in a part of unincorporated Henry County that would become part of Eagle’s Landing, said residents should have a right to decide their fate.
“If the people, based upon facts, decide not to do it, then the people have spoken,” said Moore, who supports the legislation. “If the people decide to do it, likewise, the people have spoken.”
Retired Stockbridge resident Tyrone Anderson, who is opposed to the formation of a city of Eagle’s Landing, said the idea of a city tax worries him.
“Seniors like me live on a fixed income so that will hurt us,” he said.
For Stockbridge Mayor Anthony Ford, the issue is simple.
“One group of individuals, who currently reside in the Eagle’s Landing area, want to take 50 percent of established land and parcels from the city of Stockbridge,” he said Monday outside Stockbridge City Hall. “This is straightforward and it’s wrong. There is no other way to put it.”
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