Republican state senator sponsoring Greenhaven bill to ‘give voice to disenfranchised’
A proposed city of Greenhaven didn’t make it through this year’s Legislative Session, but a Republican state Senator has given the bill a boost for the 2019 session.
If the city is approved in the Legislature, it would be placed on the ballot for voters in South DeKalb County to decide. If voters approve Greenhaven, it would become the second-largest city in Georgia behind Atlanta.
Republican State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-29, from Columbus Georgia has introduced a bill on Greenhaven’s behalf in the Senate. McKoon hasn’t returned a call from Decaturish seeking comment, but he did speak at a press conference hosted by Greenhaven supporters Wednesday. Video of the press conference was made available via YouTube.
“A lot of the questions I’ve received have basically focused around the idea, ‘Why is someone from another part of the state the author of a bill dealing with a proposed municipal government in DeKalb County?’ And the answer is pretty simple,” he said. “In my eight years here at the Legislature, I have been focused on trying to give voice to people who are disenfranchised, and to try to balance the equities around the Capitol in favor of trying to give people the opportunity to have their issues heard, to have their voices heard.”
McKoon said it is unfair that other cities – like Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookaven and Tucker – have been decided by voters while Greenhaven’s bill has continued to languish in the Legislature.
He said, “If all of those communities have the opportunity to have their voices heard through the legislative process, what makes a group of citizens in south DeKalb County less important or less worthy of that conversation?”
Kathryn Rice, who chairs Concerned Citizens for Cityhood of South DeKalb Inc. (CCCSD), the group pushing for Greenhaven’s incorporation, also spoke at the press conference and said the group is “thankful” for McKoon’s support.
“People use the words ‘cityhood’ and ‘economic development’ freely and frequently,” Rice said. “But what do those words mean to us? I’d like to paint a picture and a vision of what we want. We want not just wings and fast food joints, but sit-down restaurants that offer healthy meals. We want more than the dollar stores and the auto repair shops that populate many of our streets. We want landscaped, litter-free commercial areas that will attract diverse stores, suppliers, distributors and corporate and industrial businesses that offer jobs. Rather than the jail being the tallest building in south DeKalb, we want to see the construction of high-rise office buildings, hotels, convention centers, and stadiums. We are very interested in innovative, sustainable items, like smart cars, hover boards, tiny homes, rent-a-bikes, and more. We want to invest in 4k internet speed, solar energy, wind turbines, and infrastructure that will take us into the future. That’s what cityhood means to us.”
The city would take over economic development functions, courts and parks. There are not any current plans for the city to provide police services, though the website indicates that could change at some point.
To see an interactive map of the proposed city, click here.
Rice said the lack of support from the DeKalb County legislative delegation for their bill forced Greenhaven to look elsewhere.
“When for four years, we have met all the requirements laid out by the Georgia General Assembly by which other cityhood efforts have been approved, but we remain denied, then we seek alternatives,” she said.
McKoon’s support of Greenhaven has riled the primary opponents of the new city: Neighbors Against Greenhaven and Citizens Against Cityhood in DeKalb.
Neighbors Against Greenhaven have circulated a petition – which has about 630 signatures – outlining the reasons they are opposed to the idea of creating this new city. They say the city is not financially viable, though Greenhaven has conducted a financial feasibility study showing it can generate enough tax revenue to support services.
That study is out of date, NAG says.
“Greenhaven’s current feasibly study was developed in 2015 and has not been updated despite the fact that numerous areas within the proposed boundaries have annexed into neighboring cities to avoid becoming part of Greenhaven,” the petitions says. “Given the outdated and (as a result of annexations) inaccurate feasibility study, Greenhaven cannot currently prove that they are fiscally viable and thus have not met the basic requirements for moving forward in the cityhood process.
“Fiscal viability is imperative for this proposed city in particular because it will, overnight, create the second largest city in Georgia, but will operate on only $414,000 in revenue for its estimated 294,000 population. Given the meager revenue, the proposed second largest city in Georgia will only provide three city services: parks, zoning, and code enforcement. The remaining service will be supplied from DeKalb County at a premium cost.”
The Greenhaven idea has also encountered opposition from other elected officials in DeKalb County. During a committee hearing on the Greenhaven bill this year, both Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett and Stone Mountain Mayor Patricia Wheeler opposed the bill moving forward, for different reasons.
Garrett said cities have been working with the Carl Vinson Institute of Georgia on a study that would take a broader look at annexations and cityhood in DeKalb County. The goal of the study would be to develop a plan for annexations and cityhood moving forward, she said. The study should be completed before Greenhaven is voted on by the Legislature, she said.
Wheeler objected to Greenhaven’s map surrounding Stone Mountain, which would prevent any future annexations by the city