Apr 27, 2022 - News

What’s the latest with Cobb’s cityhood movements?

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Cobb residents in three areas of the county have about a month to parse misinformation and lawsuits to determine the truth behind efforts to establish new cities.

State of play: Three cityhood referendums — East Cobb, Lost Mountain and Vinings — will be on the May 24 ballot.

  • If all three are approved, the number of cities in Cobb will go from six to nine.
  • Lost Mountain, which its feasibility study cites as having about 74,600 residents and having a median income of $118,919, would be the county’s largest city.
  • A referendum question for the Mableton area will be decided by voters on Nov. 8 if Gov. Brian Kemp signs the legislation.

Why it matters: Proponents believe cityhood would allow them to better control what kind of development happens in their communities.

  • State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, who sponsored cityhood legislation for Lost Mountain, tells Axios cities that offer planning and zoning services can “establish [the type of] zoning that they wish.”
  • “We are seeing the emergence of what we refer to as affinity cities where people want to live together who are just like themselves in terms of partisanship and ideology,” said Michael Leo Owens, an Emory University political science professor. “But of course, that's not what we've always associated with a city.”

The latest: There’s a lot to wade through, but here’s a quick rundown of what’s happening.

  • Lawsuits have been filed challenging the East Cobb, Lost Mountain and Vinings ballot questions.
  • The East Cobb Cityhood Committee sent a letter this month to county commissioners, demanding they stop their information campaign because of its "implicit and explicit” bias against cityhood.
  • Questions have been raised about the alleged ties between proponents of Lost Mountain cityhood and land developers, according to the AJC.

Dora Locklear, a resident who filed the lawsuit against the Lost Mountain referendum, tells Axios cityhood proponents have told residents they’ll be able to limit what kind of services Lost Mountain would provide, which would keep taxes low.

  • “I want them to know that that is not a constitutional claim,” she said. “That is a political claim that is not supported by law. And I believe that they have a right to trust that what they're voting on is clear and true.”

Context: Owens also tells Axios the key difference in Cobb’s cityhood movement from previous iterations is there seems to be a partisan undertone that’s driving incorporation.

  • People who reside in historically Republican areas of Lost Mountain and East Cobb may not want land use in their communities governed by a Democrat-run County Commission. There could also be a racial undercurrent since three of the five commission members are Black.

One Lost Mountain cityhood opponent, Sue Morning, tells Axios that advocates are using misinformation about the voting record of County Commissioner Keli Gambrill to bolster their campaign.

  • Advocates claim Gambrill, who represents the Lost Mountain area, has been outvoted on zoning cases by her colleagues, she said.

Gambrill tells Axios that all but two cases in the district she represents have been unanimously approved by the County Commission. She said she was disappointed to see her record misrepresented.

  • “I have taken great pride not only in my three-plus years in office, but the 14 years I spent prior to coming into office, ensuring that we kept the character of the area as what was expected,” she said.

Kristal’s thought bubble: Half-truths and misinformation will only lead to voter confusion on a topic that could have a direct impact on their day-to-day lives.


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