Feb 20, 2024 - News

Proposed city of Mulberry to be decided by voters

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Data: City of Mulberry; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Gwinnett County voters will decide in the May 21 general primary if they want to form metro Atlanta's newest city after Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation paving the way for a referendum on the issue.

Why it matters: If approved, Mulberry would be the first municipality created in Gwinnett since Peachtree Corners' incorporation in 2012.

  • It would be Gwinnett's second largest city, with about 41,000 people near the Hall and Barrow county lines, according to a feasibility study commissioned by state Rep. Chuck Efstration's office.

Details: There would be five city council members and a mayor. The council — not citizens — would choose the mayor.

  • Mulberry would only offer three services, the minimum required for cities: stormwater runoff management, planning and zoning, and code enforcement.
  • The city would not levy any property taxes but would fund its budget through revenue streams like business license taxes, franchise fees, insurance premiums, and building permit and inspection fees.

What they're saying: Republican State Sen. Clint Dixon, the sponsor of the legislation who represents part of the proposed city, told Axios the proposal stems from an "outcry" of residents who felt their county commissioner, Matthew Holtkamp, was being outvoted by his colleagues on approving higher-density projects in his district.

  • He said a new city would provide residents with elected officials who will "understand the land use better than a commissioner that represents a quarter million people."
  • "The more local you get, the more effective governance you have."

The other side: State Sen. Nikki Merritt, a Gwinnett Democrat who voted against the bill, said in a Feb. 1 floor debate that she's not against the referendum process, but that the bill was rushed through the legislature.

  • "And to be clear, we have this bill because … of NIMBYism, because we don't want any apartments, we don't want density… moving into this area," she said.

Flashback: The push to create a new city follows a proposal that would have allowed a mixed-use project featuring a 700-unit apartment complex in the Hamilton Mill area of Gwinnett.

  • Late last year, developers withdrew the project from consideration amid community opposition to that and other proposals to add multi-family housing in the northern part of the county.

Meanwhile: Gwinnett County commissioners last month approved a resolution asking state legislators to "carefully consider" the impact incorporation would have on its coffers.

The bottom line: Holtkamp, who said he can't advocate for or against incorporation, told Axios he hopes residents will educate themselves about the proposal and welcomes their questions.

  • "My job is to be a provider of information," he said.

The big picture: Metro Atlanta's cityhood fever has created a patchwork of local governments that might bring services closer to residents but has made cooperating on regional issues like transit, affordable housing and paralyzing snowstorms more difficult.

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