Georgia House OKs Lost Mountain, Vinings cityhood movements

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

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

The Georgia House of Representatives on Monday authorized voter referendums to create two more cities in Cobb County over the objections of local Democrats and election officials.

One measure would allow voters in West Cobb to create the city of Lost Mountain, an area of 75,000 people that would become the county’s largest city if it’s approved in a May referendum. The other would create a smaller city in the historic community of Vinings, with a population of about 7,000.

If the two bills – and a third to create a new city of East Cobb – are approved by the state Senate and signed into law, Cobb County would face one of the most pivotal elections in its history less than four months from today. Add in a proposed fourth referendum to create a city of Mableton in November, and more than a quarter of the county’s residents could be in newly created cities by next year.

Supporters of Lost Mountain and Vinings presented united arguments ahead of Monday’s vote. The cities were needed, they said, because residents of their areas want local control of development in their communities through a city planning and zoning department.

“The folks who live in West Cobb, they do have representation, but it’s one commissioner for (roughly) 200,000 people,” said Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, a Republican who represents the area. The two cities would be led by city councils that represent different geographic districts but are elected citywide.

In addition to zoning, the two cities would provide only limited public services. Both would provide code enforcement and parks, while Lost Mountain would also have a sanitation department. Other critical services, such as public safety, water and roads would continue to be provided by the county government.

Cobb’s Democratic lawmakers complained to no avail that the process was rushed.

In a letter circulated at the Capitol Monday, Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler said her staff was already going to be hard-pressed to prepare for the May primary due to delays in approving redistricting maps following the 2020 Census.

“Adding these additional complications to our workload increases the risk level for error,” she wrote, asking that the cityhood referendums be pushed back to November.

Additionally, Cobb County officials last week said a consultant they planned to hire to study the financial impact of the cityhood movements wouldn’t have time to complete it ahead of a May election.

A city of Lost Mountain, in particular, could have large implications — and not just for the county’s finances. It would also diminish the political power of Democrats, who now lead both the county commission and its largest cities.

“Please, this isn’t something we have to rush,” said Rep. Mary Frances Williams, a Democrat from Marietta, who voted against Lost Mountain cityhood but supported Vinings. “I don’t think we know what we’re doing.”

Corrections:

State Rep. Mary Frances Williams (D-Marietta) voted in favor of the Vinings cityhood bill Monday in the Georgia House of Representatives. A previous version of this article incorrectly reported her vote.

City mayors within each ATL transit authority district elect one mayor to represent them. That mayor then gets a vote in the election of that district’s board member. Due to incorrect information provided to the AJC, a previous version of this article misstated how board members to the ATL transit authority are chosen.