Form the City of South Fulton

Ben Nelms's picture

Residents of the only remaining area of unincorporated Fulton County will decide Sept. 18 whether to become the city of South Fulton or remain unincorporated. Either way, the vote will have an unprecedented bearing on their future, their families, their neighborhoods and communities. Like voters in Chattahoochee Hill Country who in June overwhelmingly approved their new city, voters in the new City of South Fulton area will hopefully do the same.

I’ve heard a million reasons pro and con when it comes to forming new cities, but as I see it, the residents in unincorporated south Fulton have no real choice but to form the City of South Fulton. I came to that conclusion some time ago and, today, I am more convinced of this than ever. So below you will find a few simple but important reasons why the new city should be voted in.

The overriding reason to form the City of South Fulton, the biggest bottom line, is local control! As a new city, South Fulton will have its own locally elected mayor and city council that will appoint local planning and zoning commissioners made up of their own neighbors. At first glance this might not seem particularly important, but it is. You may certainly run into Commissioner Bill Edwards at any time in south Fulton, and maybe at-large Commissioner Rob Pitts. But with a locally elected mayor and council and a locally appointed planning and zoning board, you are much more likely to bump into a host of them on the produce aisle in the grocery store or in the church parking lot or coming out of a local restaurant. Think about that for a minute. Think about what it means. It means that developers wanting ever higher density will have to deal directly with the elected and appointed citizens put in office by their own neighbors. And if I’ve learned anything about the residents of South Fulton, it is that they will not sit by and watch their local officials screw up the works by allowing anything less than quality development inside their city limits. After all, unincorporated south Fulton already has experience with questionable residential development.

Another bottom line is money. The latest, freshly-crunched figures show that the City of South Fulton is financially in the black. It is in the black even after all of last year’s annexations. These numbers came from Georgia State’s Prof. Robert Eger, of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. Some locally are pooh-poohing his numbers, mainly those opposed to the city. But the ones who are not questioining them are the other credentialed “experts” at UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute.

A further bottom line is power. Beyond the power to control their own destiny through local control, there is another kind of power available only to cities. That power was crystal clear during the annexation period of 2006/2007. Where issues such as annexation are concerned, Georgia law gives complete, total and preferential advantage to cities. Hence, county residents simply do not have the legal power to stop annexations by cities. This becomes blatantly evident when a few large landowners with industrial or other property ripe for development can make Swiss cheese of an area through the 100 percent method of annexation. This happened in some cases, especially along the South Fulton Parkway, with some developers lining up to get into Union City. And in its wake, residents were powerless to do anything about it. Fulton County was also powerless. Even if it had wanted to do so, the county could not have prevented the annexations. In my mind, and given current state law, that makes county residents little more than second-class citizens who are still required to pay taxes but who are not allowed to control their own destiny. The only recourse for unincorporated residents is to acquire equal power by forming the city of South Fulton.

Finally, some in south Fulton County say a new city will have too many obstacles, too many problems. They cite Milton, Sandy Springs and John’s Creek as examples. Their contention raises two points. First, most of those saying the new city won’t work are officials of existing cities, some developers or others who stand to lose power. Their position is no surprise. Second, show me one city in south Fulton County, or anywhere for that matter, that doesn’t have its own set of problems and concerns, including cities more than 100 years old. Being a new city does not forestall problems and being an existing city does not eliminate them.

The Atlanta megalopolis will likely continue to grow as fast as any metro area in the country. South Fulton County, the Diamond of metro Atlanta, will do the same and is positioned pivotally in the crosshairs of those that would have the rolling hills of south Fulton County for their own corporate gain. The only clear choice for voters on Sept. 18 is to form the City of South Fulton.

login to post comments | Ben Nelms's blog

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Submitted by jamesr57 on Mon, 08/27/2007 - 4:07pm.

This is an open request for the South Fulton Concerned Citizens to lay their cards on the table. I have stated all along that I prefer to be left alone. There are many folks like myself who are not interested in forming a city at this time.

There are a lot of unanswered questions. First and foremost in my mind is -- What is the plan? Everyone talks about local control. Milton has local control and it's out of control with personality conflicts and the like.

I have no doubt that if necessary there are people who can and will come forth to fill any need for leadership. There will be 49 days or so of campaigning before a mayor and council is elected. That's not nearly enough time to select the folks to run a new city. Some will say you should automatically anoint those who have championed the city from the start. I say not only no, but hell no! Why?!?

There is a lack of transparency with SFCC. No meeting minutes, rumors of a power struggle, private meetings, etc. As an individual with a lot at stake with my family living in the middle of the proposed city. I want to know what is the plan? If ya'll can't lay the cards on the table for all to view and comment on I suggest you abandon your efforts.

What are you planning to do with the fire fighters and police officers? I'm sure you've had that discussion but, within your group only. How about the zoning, planning and development piece? I certainly hope ya'll aren't considering privatizing the administration of the proposed city. I for one will fight such a weak proposal.

Have you considered city hall? How about adding park space? I for one is willing to pay more for such an amenity.

Lay your cards on the table. Don't hide behind your organization. We the people need to know.

James Reese

Submitted by davishd on Mon, 08/27/2007 - 11:25am.

First of all this should be classified as an editorial opinion with the disclaimer that Ben Nelms' personal preference has always been to form a new City of South Fulton.

His articles often looked like press releases for the pro-city group South Fulton Concerned Citizens (SFCC) complete with links to their website and how to contribute money to their cause.

Ben’s assessment is through the lenses of SFCC without the perspective of the realities of South Fulton living having only lived there a few short years.

He's never published similar information like website addresses or fund raising details from the host of opposition groups; he just holds up quotes from Commissioner Bill Edwards as balanced reporting.

Ben’s talk of local control is a catch phrase right out of the playbook from South Fulton Concerned Citizens. Local control means nothing if there isn’t any leadership. Many of those of the early supporters in the SFCC have abandoned the effort. If you compare this campaign with those supporting the City of Chattahoochee Hills County Club (CHCC) it is like night and day.

CHCC is a tight cohesive group with a common vision and loads of leaders. The proposed City of South Fulton by contrast is a hodgepodge of very diverse communities with different interests and goals drawn on a map from what was leftover. The varying visions and goals will result in the same disunity and fighting we all see in the meltdown of new Fulton cities like Milton and Johns Creek.

Sadly the City of South Fulton lacks leaders with intelligence, ethics and integrity. All they have is a bunch of pro-city folks hoping to parlay their efforts into political careers. Without great leadership local control will be a disaster.

The study commissioned by cityhood supporters was indeed with Dr. Roger Eger who works for Georgia State. The report however is not an official Georgia State report rather it is the work of a professor who works at Georgia State – quite different! He publicly was quoted that he intended to file a lawsuit against SFCC for the $24,000 they owed him. If this was a Georgia State study GSU not Eger would be threatening a lawsuit.

It is ridiculous to suggest that because you are not in favor of a new city that your critiques of the study are not valid. By that same means because Ben Nelms and SFCC support the city, their endorsement of the city’s conclusions is suspect.

Anyone that thinks that a $900,000 surplus is enough does not know much about what it takes to run a city.

LOST dollars will not be available until September 2008; the city won’t be able to get tax anticipation notes because it has not established a credit rating. Milton and Johns Creek are having that struggle now regarding credit.

Transitional services from Fulton County while a new city creates its own operational management team are not free. The county bills them monthly at actual cost.

Whatever the new city does not outsource in multi-million dollar agreements with CH2M Hill, it will have to pay Fulton County back on a monthly basis even though those LOST tax dollars will not be available until some nine months after the city might be formed.

The new city must buy or provide itself the following services that Fulton County presently performs: Municipal Court service, Parks, Parks Maintenance, Recreation Programs, City Jail (FC Jail-Arrest Warrants only), Police, Fire, 911 Service, 800MHz Radio System 800MHz Radio Maintenance, Ambulance/EMS, Economic Development, Animal Control, Environmental, Water Distribution Erosion & Sediment Control, Sewage Collection Stormwater Management, Street Maintenance/Construction, Building Maintenance/Construction, Community Development, Planning and Zoning, Permitting, Inspections, Code Enforcement and GIS.

Being able to buy fire stations for $5,000 is great but they mean nothing without fire trucks. Vehicle extrication equipment (Jaws-or-life) can cost $50,000, and a new fire truck can cost between $300,000 and $600,000. That $900,000 surplus won’t buy three fire trucks for entire new city.

While landowners can choose by the 100% method to annex their property into existing municipality, it is misleading to suggest that because of the choices of these large landowners they can take other folks land into the cities against their will. Anyone who suggests that hostile annexations take place by landowners in cahoots with cities is not telling the truth.

Residential areas are annexed into existing cities only when petition signatures of 60+% of the property owners AND 60+% of all registered voters choose to join existing cities. This is a much higher standard that the vote for the city that only required 51% of the voter who vote that day.

Many of those supporters of the new city ultimately plan to run for office in these new cities. Somehow in Ben’s mind their political aspirations have no bearing in their support for a new City of South Fulton. There are lots of winners and losers with a new city of South Fulton. The winners are

- Supporters of a new city so they can run for office to get a job and another opportunity to spend your tax dollars, and find jobs for their relatives;

- Businessmen supporting creating a new city so their companies can secure contracts - they weren’t good enough to secure business with Fulton County;

- Banks and other financial institutions who will loan the new city money to resolve its cash flow problems; until taxes are raised to cover the deficits;

- Members of the South Fulton “Concerned Citizens” organizing committee and other pundits and Bloggers advocating cityhood so they can become your elected city officials;

- Management firms who will make millions to operate the city when services must be outsourced because there was no planning to take over the massive task;

- Former Fulton County employees who have sub-contracts, jobs or consulting arrangements with the management firm;

- Elected officials and their relatives with jobs or contracts with the new city directly;

- Former Fulton County employees who will work for the City of South Fulton;

- Dr. Eger of Georgia State who conducted the financial feasibility study for South Fulton Concerned Citizens;

- Lawyers, Lobbyists, and South Fulton Real Estate brokers renting space to the new city for City Hall, et cetera

The Losers are

- Homeowners who will pay higher property taxes because of sparse commercial taxpayers;

- Taxpayers who will pay Fulton County to buy or lease buildings and equipment that they already own as unincorporated residents of the county;

- Residents who will pay higher auto, rental and homeowners insurance rates as a new city must achieve its own police and fire ranking and accreditation;

- Residents who experience further cuts in road improvements, and parks services;

- Residents experiencing cutbacks in county-wide services; including libraries, health and human services and criminal justice;

- Laid-Off Fulton County Employees;

- Reduced “City Service” levels no longer provided by the county: (Emergency Management Services, Environment and Community Development, Fire, Parks, Police and Public Works);

- Shortages of essential police and fire personnel because we now must compete with all of the other metro cities for these scare resources;

- Developers and builders experiencing disruption and delays in permitting and inspections as services transition to new start up departments in the new city;

- Residents and Businesses with less of a regional or national identity with the mailing address South Fulton, GA instead of Atlanta, GA

- Businesses and homeowners who must change stationary and update their addresses for all their accounts to South Fulton, GA 303??

Submitted by JessieJames on Wed, 08/29/2007 - 7:36am.

People in south fulton are faced with two options and staying unincorporated isnt one of them. If the city isnt voted in then wherever you live you will become a part of whatever city you live near. The rest of south fulton will be devoured like vultures ravaging a carcass. Lets see which city you would like to be a part of. East Point just borrowed millions to cover their payroll. The folks in the west cascade commnity who were just annexed by atlanta are fuming over an increase in almost 400$ a year in garbage pickup, an increased millage rate from 4.71 to 11, and not to mention an increase in response times for police and fire oh and I forgot to mention their children being switched to city of atlanta schools. Union city has tripled in size, good for them. They have dropped the speed limit on south fulton parkway and turned it into a speed trap. They still only have two fire stations and continue to call the county for help when theres a problem on the parkway. Heres a clue if you cant provide the service then you shouldnt be able to annex. Within the last 2 years a couple of county commisioners and even the county manager himself have boldly stated that they are getting out of the police and fire business. Before Karen Handel left to become secutary of the state she said that the only functions that the county will have in the near future will be the courts and the sherriffs office and all other services will be provided by cities. If you live in south fulton you cant escape it. Dr Edgers study is based on #s that are derived from the current 4.71 millage rate and it shows the new city in the black. Of course you can armchair quarterback the study all day it wont change the fact that the state has no plan for south fulton staying unincorporated. Some of you need to get your head out of the sand and do the brave thing. Save south fultons borders and become a city.

Submitted by fayette girl on Mon, 08/27/2007 - 1:27pm.

In reference to your first sentence:

First of all this should be classified as an editorial opinion

Actually, it IS classified as an editorial opinion. This editorial ran in the South Fulton Citizen under a large font "Opinion" logo. As for this website, a few things will tip you off that it is an editorial piece rather than a news article.

First of all, it can be found with the rest of the columnists on the right-hand side of this website -->

Secondly, the use of the word "I" throughout also lets the reader know that this is a subjective, opinion piece.

And finally, the other place you can find this piece is under the "Opinions" tab up at the top of this website.

Since you clearly want to make sure that everything is accurately stated, I thought I'd help you out there.

Submitted by southfultonguy on Mon, 08/27/2007 - 12:14pm.

"Sadly the City of South Fulton lacks leaders with intelligence, ethics and integrity."

This comment of yours insults every resident of South Fulton County because what you're saying is that if the City of South Fulton were created, we wouldn't be able to find 6 individuals out of more than 50,000 people with the "intelligence, ethics, and integrity" to run the new city. I mean just think about said that the City of South Fulton lacks leaders with intelligence, ethics, and integrity.

Does that mean that if the City of South Fulton were created, then none of your neighbors have the intelligence, ethics, and integrity to run the City? Does that mean that if the City of South Fulton were created, then you yourself don't have the intelligence, ethics, and integrity to run the City?

For the record, elections are not coronations. You, me, or anyone else could run for office in the new City of South Fulton and they would all have to face the voters at the ballot box; and I'm positive that there's enough talent in the new City of South Fulton to give voters a choice on election day.

So, here's my question for you...if the new City is formed, will you run for office? Will you run for Mayor? Or City Council? Or will you continue to sit on the sidelines and complain until the cows come home?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.