After the recent passage of legislation that would allow the division of a Henry County city, comments and questions about a potential city of Buckhead have again swirled. However, there is no known movement or proponent to de-annex the community from the city of Atlanta.
“To my knowledge, there’s no formal movement. And that’s good news,” Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell said of the separatist discussion.
Talk of creating a city of Buckhead has existed for decades, but is more prevalent now with the passage of state legislation that would allow residents to vote on carving out part of Stockbridge to create a new city called Eagle’s Landing, said Massell, a former Atlanta mayor.
But the discussion seems to be echoing back and forth between community groups and leaders without any real proponent. Most of the comments Massell hears are general questions or people asking his opinion of the matter, but no one he hears from is genuinely pushing for the move, he said.
“I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say, ‘that’s what we want to do’ or ‘that’s what we need to do,’ ” he said.
A Twitter profile called “Free Buckhead” was created in May after the passage of the legislation with the description, “a community movement to allow Buckhead to govern herself.” The account has not garnered any followers. Messages to the creator of the account were not returned.
State Rep. Beth Beskin, who represents Buckhead and voted against the legislation, said she also has heard comments about cityhood, but not serious discussion pushing for it to happen.
“It’s not something that I encourage. I listen to what people are saying,” she said.
The discussion Massell has heard prompted him to ask Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms her opinion at a May 14 Buckhead Rotary meeting, he said.
“She said it would be damaging to Atlanta and Buckhead and I agree with that. We’re partners in this city,” Massell said.
Massell has always opposed a possible city of Buckhead, but said he does even more so now because of the economic inequality between Buckhead and other parts of Atlanta.
“It’s way too late for us to be the city of Buckhead. It would be just devastating to Atlanta,” he said.
Buckhead would also have to overcome another challenge if it were to become its own city — dealing with the existing town of Buckhead in Morgan County. Calls to that small town of 171, according to the latest census, were not returned.
Massell’s known status as an opponent to cityhood led to a lobbyist for Stockbridge trying to recruit him to help defeat the Eagle’s Landing legislation, he said.
“I gave her information, but I didn’t see fit to get involved,” Massell said.
State Rep. Scott Holcomb, who represents Brookhaven, is one of the legislation’s detractors and fears the precedent it could set.
“I think it’s a very bad public policy. It does not lend itself to stability or security,” he said.
Several cities have been created out of formerly unincorporated territory relatively recently, including Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, but this would be different, allowing an existing city to split into two cities. Holcomb fears this would leave Stockbridge unable to meet its financial obligations, the same fears Massell has about the city of Atlanta if Buckhead were to leave.
“We’ve been used to conversations around incorporation for a while now, but this is different,” Holcomb said.
Although a separate bill would have to be drafted and passed to allow Buckhead to de-annex itself, the passage of this legislation shows that it is possible, he said.
However, Stockbridge residents have filed a legal challenge, he said.
“That’s one of the dangers of this bill. It does set this precedent for long-term instability in our cities,” he said.