Starting with Sandy Springs a decade ago, Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) has backed every effort to create a new city in Georgia.
He sponsored legislation to start the cities of Dunwoody, Brookhaven and Peachtree Corners and, most recently, to set up a new central DeKalb County city called LaVista Hills.
“It’s safe to say that I’ve supported every city that’s passed,” he said.
But on Nov. 3, voters in the area that would have become LaVista Hills voted down the plan for that city. The margin was slim: just 136 more “no” votes than “yes” votes out of the 13,714 cast. Meanwhile, voters in a neighboring area overwhelmingly backed creation of a new city called Tucker.
The Sandy Springs Reporter asked Millar for his reaction to the vote and his thoughts on future city-creation efforts in DeKalb County and the state Legislature. Here’s what he had to say.
Q: With the voters turning down a city of LaVista Hills, do you think the “cityhood” movement has run its course among residents in DeKalb County?
A: If you look at the votes, they’ve declined for cityhood as we’ve gone forward [with successive cities]. There have been some natural enclaves for cityhood – i.e., Dunwoody, Peachtree Corners. Brookhaven was a close vote. You’ve seen that again with LaVista Hills. It could have gone either way.
The reason I supported LaVista Hills – Number one, I support people’s right to self-determination – but I got involved with LaVista Hills because I represent that area.
I think going forward, you’re going to have to make sure you get all the parties together who really want to be a part of this. Over 60 percent of the people I represent in the area of LaVista Hills voted “yes” for the city. That’s a landslide.
Has it run its course? I hope the Stonecrest people are given the opportunity. I think now what you’re going to see is a shift to annexation by existing cities.
Q: You sponsored legislation to create LaVista Hills. Now that the voters have said “no” to that city, what happens next?
A: I think the people I represent have to decide what they want to be. Do they want to remain unincorporated? Do they want to become part of Tucker? Do they think they want to be part of Chamblee?
Q: Would you sponsor legislation to create another city in the place of LaVista Hills?
A: No. I have told my Senate colleagues that this was the last area that I represented [I would sponsor for cityhood]. The people were going to be in LaVista Hills or Tucker. Some of the people I represent are in Tucker. In LaVista Hills, I think they either remain unincorporated or they look to be annexed by Tucker or look to be annexed by Chamblee. I was extremely gratified that over 60 percent of the people I represent voted for a city.
Q: Has the concept of “new cities” lost the support of state lawmakers? Or the public?
A: I don’t think so. There are other city movements going on right now outside of DeKalb County. There’s a city pending in Forsyth County. There’s talk of a city of St. Simons. There’s such dissatisfaction with large government, i.e., federal and certainly county government, to say we want to be closer to our elected officials. The track record for cities we’ve created has been good.
Q: Why do you think LaVista Hills lost?
A: I think the borders were too far expanded outside of the original map. It wasn’t the map these people came up with.
Q: Other lawmakers argue the process to create new cities is broken. Do you agree? How should it be fixed?
A: There are some changes we need to make, absolutely. But at the end of the day, if you have some people come together and say, ‘We want to do something,’ we’re not going to stifle that process.
The cities aren’t what’s broken. It’s the counties that are broken. Here’s what I feel bad about: The people that I represented [in the LaVista Hills area] got it. I’m sorry they didn’t get the chance to have a city.
Fran Millar represents District 40 in the state Senate. The district includes a portion of Sandy Springs.