While Republican-led efforts to create three new cities in Cobb County may have faltered last year, lawmakers and advocates plan to try again with the city of Lost Mountain in West Cobb.
About 58% of voters rejected the cityhood effort at the ballot box in May 2022, but state Sen. Ed Setzler said he was encouraged by the 10,000-plus people who voted in favor of it.
“To see the uptake and support that emerged after a very short amount of time because the consensus of what folks in West Cobb County share about preserving quality of life was actually very, very encouraging,” said Setzler, R-Acworth.
Lost Mountain’s new map encompasses most of the unincorporated land in the northwest corner of the county along the western border with Paulding County.
Instead of extending to Macland Road like last year’s unsuccessful map, the new southern boundary would be just south of Dallas Highway, and it no longer stretches as far east. The map removes large portions of the eastern and southern precincts that voted against the measure and shrinks the city’s population by about half, from roughly 74,000 to 36,000 people.
Setzler said the map is shaped around precincts that supported cityhood in 2022. It does, however, still include some precincts where most residents opposed the measure.
Dora Locklear, a West Cobb resident who spearheaded the opposition last year, questioned why precincts where “voters clearly said that they did not want to be part of a city” were included in the new map.
Her theory? “It’s because they cannot get enough tax base” without them, Locklear said.
Credit: Provided by Ed Setzler
Credit: Provided by Ed Setzler
Even in the precincts that voted in favor of Lost Mountain cityhood last May, none pulled a wide margin of support. Election results show the largest lead held by supporters was six percentage points in one precinct, and in the others, yes votes barely edged out the opposition.
Four cityhood movements arose last year in Cobb, three of them in wealthier, whiter and more conservative areas like West Cobb. Those were largely propelled by fears of development and a desire for local control over planning and zoning in an increasingly diverse, Democratic-controlled county.
Voters, however, rejected all three of the conservative-led efforts, and only approved the overwhelmingly Democratic city of Mableton at the ballot box.
Setzler said the new Lost Mountain proposal, which he plans to file on Monday, will offer fewer services, this time focusing on planning and zoning and code enforcement, with some passive parks.
Six council members would all be elected citywide so that “every elected official is accountable to every single citizen, and that’s a powerful representative model,” Setzler said. In a growing county, citizens need closer-to-home representation in local government, he said.
“Do you want to have folks influencing and making decisions about your backyard that you can vote for, or do you want to have one commissioner out of five?” Setzler said. “That’s really what it’s about.”
The bill will pave the way for a new feasibility study to be conducted this summer and allow the Legislature to vote on whether to put the cityhood question on the ballot again in 2024. If approved, West Cobb residents will vote on cityhood in the May primary and for city officials in the November general election. That setup, Setzler said, will allow for the highest turnout in both elections, instead of conducting an off-cycle special election.
In 2022, Setzler and other Republican state lawmakers moved the elections for Lost Mountain and two other cityhood movements to May over the objections of county officials and cityhood opponents who said it would create election administration problems and depress turnout.
Locklear said that before her group, West Cobb Advocate, makes any moves, she has many unanswered questions and will need to review the proposed charter.
“The only thing that we know is Ed (Setzler) is trying to override that (the 2022 results) and say, ‘We don’t really care what you voted before. We want a city, and we’re going to bring it back again, and we’re going to waste taxpayer money doing it. And, by the way, we’ll stick it to you, so you can pay for it,’” she said.