When drawing new city borders, which matters more: history or police protection?
State lawmakers met with residents Dec. 3 to hear their concerns about where to draw the line between the proposed cities of LaVista Hills and Tucker and much of the discussion focused on those two topics.
Proponents of a proposed city of Tucker argued the map they submitted for their town reflected the area’s history. “Tucker is a well-known place,” Frank Auman of Tucker 2015 said, showing how the name “Tucker” appeared in Census areas and road names and even had its own ZIP code.
But a portion of Tucker’s map overlaps areas that LaVista Hills proponents want included in their planned new city. Those areas are both east and west of I-285.
About 23,000 residents live in the disputed areas, Auman said, so putting them in LaVista Hills would increase the population of that city to about 72,000 while cutting Tucker’s population to about 30,000. If the residents are placed in Tucker, both cities would be roughly the same size, Tucker’s proponents said.
The area also includes a number of businesses in and around Northlake Mall, which could provide taxes needed to support the new city governments.
Dan Chapman, a volunteer for LaVista Hills Yes, said that city’s plan “would show equal revenue per capita.” Auman responded that’s because LaVista Hill’s plan calls for more people in that city than in Tucker, not because it provides for an even division of tax revenues
Despite Tucker’s historic claims, some residents of the area told the lawmakers they were attracted to LaVista Hills because the plans for that new city include a new police department.
“I want to be in LaVista Hills and not in Tucker because they don’t public safety as part of their plan,” said Greg Holcomb, who lives in the disputed area just outside the Perimeter in a community called Northcrest. “To me, that’s the purpose of government. They want to be a ‘city light’ and ‘city light’ isn’t right for Northcrest.”
Proponents of the Tucker plan said they could add police later. They said they were taking a financially conservative approach to starting the city.
A standing-room-only crowd of about 100 residents filled a meeting room at the Capitol to voice support for one or another of the new cities and to argue over which should claim the disputed territory. Some residents objected to creation of either city, saying carving new cities would harm DeKalb County services or schools.
Although the subcommittee hearing was scheduled to last 90 minutes, it went on for three hours. The five lawmakers on the special DeKalb County Cityhood Subcommittee – Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming), Rep. Howard Mosby (D-Atlanta) and Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) – are to see if they can agree on a map show one or both cities that the Legislature could consider next year, the lawmakers said.
“I’m not happy to be here. This goes outside our rules,” Hamilton said.
Several members of the subcommittee asked for revenue estimates to show what effect the location of the disputed area would have on each city’s tax revenues.
The subcommittee was appointed after proponents of the two cities were unable to reach agreement on a map. Originally, three groups proposed cities in the area, but two – ones proposing cities named Briarcliff and Lakeside – merged to create the LaVista Hills plan.
“Both LaVista Hills and Tucker were very disappointed and we regret we had to hand this to you,” Mary Kay Woodworth, co-chair of the LaVista Hills group told the legislators.