UGA study says Vinings could support itself as new city in Cobb County

A man travelled along Paces Ferry Road in Vinings in May 2021. (AJC file)
Caption
A man travelled along Paces Ferry Road in Vinings in May 2021. (AJC file)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

A recent University of Georgia feasibility study suggests Vinings, an unincorporated section of southeast Cobb County, is poised to become a city.

Vinings is a census-designated area with about 7,000 residents just south of Cobb Parkway, sandwiched between I-285 and the Chattahoochee River. The territory has a median household income of about $110,000, according to American Community Survey data.

Vinings, which straddles the Fulton County line, includes the headquarters for Home Depot. It’s about five miles outside of Buckhead, an affluent neighborhood in northwest Atlanta that’s currently seeking cityhood.

Cobb County currently makes zoning decisions and provides essential services in the Vinings area.

According to a 33-page report UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government released this month, Vinings would generate about $3.1 million in revenue and have just shy of $1.9 million in operating expenses each year if it were a city.

“Because the proposed city would not be providing some of the more expensive services such as fire or law enforcement, and because some of the services to be provided (e.g., building permitting) involve service charges that can generate revenue, it is assumed that the proposed new city would not levy a property tax,” the study stated.

The Vinings Exploratory Committee, an Atlanta-based nonprofit, has led a grassroots cityhood campaign. The group’s website says it wants to “curb runaway development” in Vinings, create more community green space and bring an end to high-density developments that they say cause crime and traffic to increase.

The push has the backing of State Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), who sponsored a house bill during the legislative session this year to incorporate Vinings as a city. Carson introduced the bill in the House Committee on Government Affairs in March. It was never voted on.

Carson issued a media statement Friday after an AJC reporter called his Atlanta office Thursday about the findings in the feasibility study.

“I am pleased to see that the proposed city of Vinings was deemed to be financially feasible, particularly without the need for a property tax increase,” Carson said in the release.

Supporters expect state lawmakers to vote on the bill during next year’s session and for the governor to sign the bill in April 2022. That would allow for Vinings’ cityhood to be placed on the ballot as a referendum during the November 2022 election. Only potential residents of the new city would be able to vote on the issue.

“I look forward to passing this bipartisan legislation, House Bill 840, during the 2022 legislative session to provide a referendum on this issue for Vinings residents,” Carson said. “They should be the ones deciding the future of their community.”

Feasibility studies are a state-required part of the process for municipal incorporation. The Vinings Exploratory Committee and Carson asked the Carl Vinson Institute of Government for the cityhood assessment.

The study gauged how much money Vinings would collect in taxes and fees versus how much the proposed city would need for such services as planning and zoning, code enforcement, parks and recreation, administrative and capital costs.

Cobb County would continue to provide police and fire services, according to the study.

The revenue estimates were based on projections for franchise fees and actual revenues collected in the unincorporated area during fiscal year 2020.

Most of Vinings’ revenue, over $1.7 million, would come from franchise fees and bed taxes at hotels and motels, according to projections.

To calculate expense estimates, researchers compared the Vinings area to Tyrone and Dacula, the two Georgia cities most similar in population, size, services provided, and wealth. Those expenditure projections were based on operating costs in the two cities during fiscal years 2019 and 2020.

“It shows that, properly implemented and managed, a city of Vinings can be run on a solid fiscal foundation, which means no new taxes and protection of the residential integrity of our neighborhoods,” Vinings Exploratory Committee treasurer Tom Ham said of the study.

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