Gov. Nathan Deal has cleared the way for a referendum on whether to create a city of Brookhaven.

The governor, on April 16, signed legislation that calls for a vote on July 31 by residents within the borders of the proposed city on whether or not they want to incorporate a new city in the area of north DeKalb bounded by Dunwoody, Chamblee, Sandy Springs, Atlanta and portions of I-285 and Clairmont Road.

J. Max Davis, president of BrookhavenYES, a group backing creation of the new city, called it “exhilarating” to watch Gov. Deal sign the bill.

Davis said the group will now begin the process of educating area residents about the benefits of forming a city.

“We have a lot of pounding the pavement to do,” Davis said. “The campaign starts today officially. I’m excited about the hard work we’re about to undertake.”

Linley Jones, a member of BrookhavenYES, said she was relieved to see the governor sign his name after all the obstacles the bill went through in the state Legislature.

“This is just a great day. For so long, we didn’t know if we would have this day. I’m just so happy,” Jones said.

Opponents of the new city were also at the Capitol on April 16. Members of the opposition group Ashford Neighbors delivered to the governor’s office a petition they said had been signed by more than 1,000 residents.

Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-DeKalb, who sponsored the bill in the House, said he was glad to see his bill reach the legislative finish line.

“It’s a big step,” Jacobs said. “Obviously I’m happy. But this is really about citizens having an opportunity to vote and we’re pretty much at that point.”

Jacobs acknowledged that getting the bill to the governor’s desk was not easy.

A House committee voted to approve the bill, but changed the city’s name from Brookhaven to Ashford. Rep. Ed Lindsey, R-Atlanta, requested the change in response to complaints from his constituents in the Historic Brookhaven neighborhood in Atlanta, who wouldn’t be part of the proposed city.

The city’s boundaries were amended several times as well after claims that the city was unfairly grabbing commercial properties, and the structure of the City Council was changed due to concerns from residents. But the bill was ultimately approved by the House and Senate in the final hours of the legislative session.

“This process has been uphill both ways in the snow,” Jacobs said.