New pitch for ‘city of North Decatur’ emerges

Would be expanded version of previous Vista Grove initiative

The cityhood discussion in DeKalb County continues.

A bill to create a new “city of North Decatur” — which would be an expanded version of a previously proposed municipality called Vista Grove — has not yet been introduced. One won’t be during the current legislative session, which ends next week.

But longtime cityhood advocates in the area announced Tuesday they’ve been in consultation with local lawmakers about the plan. And state Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta, said the discussion around creating a new city is now “urgent.”

According to an email blast from the group formerly known as the Vista Grove Initiative, the city of North Decatur would extend “from Embry Hills in the north to Atlanta, Decatur, and Avondale Estates in the south.” It would be bound by I-85 on the west and I-285 on the east, excluding areas within the existing cities of Brookhaven, Tucker and Clarkston.

An interactive map is available here.

As proposed by advocates, the new city would have a population of about 82,000 and six City Council districts. Two of them would have majority-minority populations.

The city would be responsible for planning and zoning, roads and drainage, and parks and recreation, but remain under the jurisdiction of the DeKalb County Police Department and continue rely on the county for other services.

“We feel that this new map presents a more cohesive alternative to our previous proposal,” the cityhood advocates wrote.

Harrell, who lives within the boundaries of the proposed city and has previously sponsored a Vista Grove bill, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she helped steer the creation of the maps and has spent “the last two years, really, studying and thinking about certain ways” that previous proposals could be improved.

In a Facebook post attributed to the senator, she wrote that a new city in the area would protect the county school system and its tax base by preventing future annexations by the cities of Atlanta and Decatur, both of which have their own school districts. A new city would prevent other municipalities with their own police departments from continuing to annex unincorporated neighborhoods in the area, which Harrell said “significantly and adversely” impacts the DeKalb County Department of Public Safety.

It would also give residents a “stronger local voice in regional planning,” she wrote.

“It’s good that we’re getting the word out, because we need to spend the time between now and next session really having discussions with communities so that we are prepared to move forward in 2023,” Harrell told the AJC.

Cityhood has been a hot topic not just in DeKalb but across metro Atlanta this year.

A deeply controversial effort to create a new Buckhead City by de-annexing the area from Atlanta appears to be dead in the legislature. Four separate cityhood movements have emerged in Cobb County.

And in southern DeKalb, advocates renewed a years-old cityhood push by advocating for a massive “city of DeKalb” that would include more than 200,000 predominantly Black residents. That effort has not gained much traction.