Atlanta makes a move on Fulton Industrial district

Legal challenge comes amid war over South Fulton annexation and cityhood

Mayor Kasim Reed’s office has filed a lawsuit that could pave the way for Atlanta to annex the Fulton County Industrial District.

Atlanta is asking for the right to annex a piece of property it owns at 711 Fulton Industrial Boulevard that’s currently off-limits because of a 1979 amendment to the state constitution that prohibits a city from annexing the district.

Atlanta’s challenge seeks to determine whether the amendment was properly re-enacted when the state legislature readopted the Georgia Constitution in 1983. In doing so, the city is effectively asking a judge to declare the amendment invalid.

The move comes as state lawmakers consider a bill that would allow residents in parts of unincorporated South Fulton to vote this fall on whether to join Atlanta’s ranks. If Atlanta prevails, the decision could allow for an even larger swath of Fulton County to be annexed.

The lawsuit is also sure to worsen already tense relations with some state and Fulton County lawmakers who are eyeing the same area for the proposed city of South Fulton.

State Rep. Virgil Fludd, a Democrat who supports the cityhood effort, is sponsoring a bill to repeal the local constitutional amendment, pending voter approval.

Reed said the Fulton Industrial district is “an important industrial corridor” and “an appropriate extension of the city’s interest” as cityhood and annexation efforts are underway.

“It would be irresponsible for the city not to explore all of its options, because once all of the annexations occur in Fulton County and it’s fully municipalized, you don’t get a second bite at the apple,” he said.

Fulton County Chairman John Eaves said the county is now reviewing the filing, as well as the financial impact that a potential annexation of the corridor would have.

“I believe that thoughtful analysis is warranted for any sort of annexation of Fulton Industrial Boulevard, because the reality is it will have an impact on the revenue stream for unincorporated South Fulton,” he said. “Whatever is being done by the city of Atlanta is devoid of any analysis of impact on people.”

State Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, said he’d prefer that it eventually become part of the proposed city of South Fulton.

State Rep. LaDawn Jones, an Atlanta Democrat who backs the cityhood proposal, agreed.

“They don’t want to be in Atlanta,” said Jones, who recently criticized Reed over his annexation efforts. “No one is talking to the residents about what they want.”

Commissioner Emma Darnell, whose district includes Fulton Industrial and unincorporated parts of South Fulton, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The suit was filed on Wednesday, the same day that members of the Atlanta delegation warred over competing bills affecting South Fulton. In addition to H.B. 587, which would authorize the referendum on annexation, lawmakers are also weighing H.B. 541, which would allow voters to decide whether to form a new city; that bill cleared the House last week and is now under consideration in the Senate.