Fulton Industrial vote in the works, as Atlanta awaits outcome of suit

Vehicles travel through the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Fulton Industrial Boulevard near the Fulton County Airport. Johnny Crawford / AJC FILE PHOTO
Vehicles travel through the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Fulton Industrial Boulevard near the Fulton County Airport. Johnny Crawford / AJC FILE PHOTO

For a 7.5-square-mile stretch of road in the south part of Fulton County, there’s sure been a lot of fuss.

The Fulton Industrial district is the only remaining part of the county that isn't in a city. It isn't allowed to be; hasn't been since 1979, when legislators said it couldn't be annexed. Not into Atlanta and not into South Fulton, a new city that hasn't yet hit its first birthday.

Last year, Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a measure that would let voters county-wide decide if they wanted to repeal that constitutional amendment and put the district in South Fulton.

In his veto, Deal said there "has been continued debate" between South Fulton and Atlanta over which city the district should be in. He wanted them to compromise, and said before he would sign any law calling for a referendum, "the cities and property owners involved … need to first come to an agreement to determine the future" of the area.

Rep. Roger Bruce, D-South Fulton, is again trying to pass legislation that would let voters county-wide decide whether to put the area in the new city. This time, Bruce said, he has given Deal more information about the will of property owners in the district.

“They’ve made it very clear they want to be in the city of South Fulton,” he said. “They already have a relationship.”

The bills, HB 869 and HB 870, have passed the House and are being heard in the Senate. Bruce said he’s optimistic about their chances for success.

But Atlanta isn’t going to let South Fulton have the district — which brings in more than $18 million in property taxes to the county — without a fight.

Melissa Mullinax, a senior advisor to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, said in a statement that the city opposes Bruce’s effort.

“The interests of the entire community would be better served by collaborative discussion between the City of Atlanta, the City of South Fulton and the Fulton Industrial District stakeholders as to how municipal services could best be provided in that area,” she said, adding that the city’s preferred outcome is that the southern portion of the district go to South Fulton, while the northern portion go to Atlanta.

Bottoms, Mullinax said, is talking to South Fulton Mayor Bill Edwards about breaking up the area, “and looks forward to resolving this issue soon.”

Edwards said Monday that he was in meetings about Fulton Industrial with residents and a county commissioner, and was not available for comment.

The fight over the district is part of a long-term tug-of-war. Atlanta had earlier tried to annex land in the district, and took its case to the state supreme court, where it was dismissed because the city had not gotten far enough in the process. Last year, Atlanta tried again to annex land, drawing a suit from Fulton County. That case was heard in Fulton County Superior Court last month; no decision has been made yet.

If the Senate passes Bruce’s bills, it will again be up to Deal to sign or veto the legislation that could determine the area’s future.

“We’re giving him all the information we have available to us, with the hope that he will let it go through this time,” Bruce said.