New proposal for massive ‘city of DeKalb’ surfaces

Municipality would cover most of southern DeKalb, have more than 200,000 residents

Longtime cityhood advocates have launched a reimagined campaign to create a massive new municipality in southern DeKalb County.

As proposed, the “city of DeKalb” would cover the same footprint as the previously pursued city of Greenhaven — a diagonal swath enveloping just about everything and everyone south of Tucker and Decatur and north of Stonecrest.

With 200,000-plus residents, it would have more than three times the population of DeKalb’s largest existing cities — similar to populations in Columbus and Augusta, the second- and third-largest cities in the entire state.

A significant majority of the new city’s residents would be Black.

Kathryn Rice spearheaded the fruitless attempts at creating Greenhaven that started in 2014. She’s also the coordinator of the new group, DeKalb Cityhood Movement, that’s pushing state legislators to introduce and pass legislation that would let residents vote on a city of DeKalb.

She said that, with several new DeKalb cities having formed in recent years and the controversial Buckhead City proposal looming in Atlanta, it’s time for her community to have a referendum too.

“It’s never, in my opinion, been about a lack of support (from residents),” Rice said. “I think it’s been more about the politics of the situation.”

Credit: SPECIAL PHOTO

Credit: SPECIAL PHOTO

The Greenhaven/city of DeKalb footprint would be a significant step toward eliminating all but a few small pockets of unincorporated DeKalb County. The largest remaining unincorporated area would be in central DeKalb, where some residents have also pushed for their own municipality.

A 2019 study from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia found that the creation of the proposed south DeKalb city would steer nearly $24 million in tax revenue away from the county.

According to DeKalb Cityhood Movement’s new website, the city of DeKalb would take over code enforcement, zoning and planning, and parks and recreation services from the county. The proposal does not currently involve starting a new municipal police force or a local school system.

It does call for the creation of six “Community Area Planning Units” within the would-be city. Such organizations would be similar to the neighborhood planning units in Atlanta and other large cities and allow for “greater democratic participation and representation on the local, neighborhood level,” advocates said.

“Southern DeKalb has one of the highest concentrations of Black people with higher than average household incomes in the United States,” DeVon Hudson, a local businessman and vice president of the new cityhood group, said in a news release. “I believe we have the capability to form a city that will bring investment, economic development and jobs, as other cities in DeKalb County have demonstrated.”

As for the name: on their website, cityhood advocates said they “looked for a name that connected all residents in southern DeKalb” and (perhaps ironically) landed on the name of the county.

The opportunity to adopt a new moniker would be available if the city is approved.

The DeKalb Cityhood Movement will host a virtual townhall meeting at 7 p.m. on Dec. 8. More information on the meeting and the cityhood proposal can be found at cityofdekalbga.com or facebook.com/dekalbcityhoodnow.