Dec 13, 2021 - News

South Dekalb residents revive push to create city of DeKalb

Map of proposed city of DeKalb
Map courtesy of DeKalb Cityhood

South DeKalb residents are reigniting a campaign to create what could be one of Georgia’s largest cities.

Why it matters: If successful, the city of DeKalb would include about 206,000 people, according to a website created by advocates.

The city would be around the same size as Columbus and would include unincorporated areas south of Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Decatur, Clarkston, Pine Lake and Stone Mountain.

  • Its southern and eastern borders would be Stonecrest, Lithonia and Clayton and Henry counties.

The city's footprint is the same as previous boundaries advocates wanted to incorporate as the city of Greenhaven, which picked up steam years ago, but fizzled out in 2019, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

What they’re saying: Kathryn Rice, coordinator of the DeKalb Cityhood Movement, told Axios that becoming a city would allow residents to be in control of what happens in their own backyards.

  • “It gives us the opportunity to be as great as we can be,” said Rice, who was involved in the earlier movement to create Greenhaven.

What would this new city do? The city of DeKalb would provide code enforcement, planning and zoning and parks and recreation services.

  • A feasibility study conducted in February 2015 by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia says the area would collect about $45.6 million in revenue and have about $18.4 million in annual expenditures.

Rice says the proposed city stands out from other newly formed municipalities because it would allow residents to provide direct feedback to elected officials through Community Area Planning Units.

  • Modeled after Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Units, DeKalb’s CAPUs will give residents an opportunity to have a greater say in how government decisions affect their communities, Rice says.

Advocates for the new city hosted a virtual town hall forum last week to provide information and answer questions about the process.

DeVon E. Hudson, a 38-year resident of south DeKalb who supports incorporation, told attendees that residents in the area have paid sales taxes to fund MARTA, but have not gotten much from that service.

  • Hudson, who owns his own insurance company, said during the forum that residents in south DeKalb should have had the opportunity to vote on forming a city years ago.
  • “Cityhood is the option for us,” he said.

Yes, but: State Rep. Gail Davenport, who represents parts of south DeKalb and Clayton counties, told Axios that she’s spoken with people who are both in favor and opposed to incorporation.

  • A 2019 Carl Vinson Institute study of how incorporation could affect the county’s bottom line indicated DeKalb would lose millions in revenue.

Davenport said when advocates wanted to incorporate the area as Greenhaven several years ago, many people raised questions about services because the area was so large.

  • She also told Axios that people who were closer to areas around Stone Mountain did not want to be included in the new city.
  • “I have an open mind for it all to listen and see what’s best for DeKalb County,” she said.
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