Georgia Municipal Association policy opposes annexing territory of existing cities

The Georgia Municipal Association has formally come out against taking land from an established city to form another, four months after Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation allowing Eagle's Landing to seek cityhood by taking half of Stockbridge.

The group's Legislative Policy Council earlier this month adopted a policy stating its support for citizens seeking more responsive representation, but said "portions of existing municipalities should not be de-annexed to create municipalities."

The issue has been central to the debate over the desire of the Eagle's Landing community to become Henry County's fifth city. After being given the go ahead from the Legislature and Deal earlier this year to hold a referendum, Henry voters will decide Nov. 6 whether to approve de-annexing about half of Stockbridge and combining the territory with parts of unincorporated Henry to form the new city.

Stockbridge leaders held a community meeting Wednesday to explain their opposition to Eagle’s Landing cityhood at Eagle’s Landing Country Club. Months earlier cityhood supporter Vikki Consiglio (at microphone) held a press conference outside the facility after the legislature allowed Eagle’s Landing residents to create their own town. LEON STAFFORD/AJC.

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“We’ve never had a situation like what happened with Stockbridge this past legislative session, so this was new territory for us,” said Perry Mayor Pro-Tem Randall Walker, who chaired the task force that examined the possible consequences of the issue on Georgia’s cities.

“We heard from several experts on incorporation and municipal bonds and we feel like the policy adopted is the right path going forward for cities and GMA,” he said.

The task force included Stockbridge Mayor Anthony Ford, a vocal opponent of Eagle’s Landing cityhood. He did not recuse himself from the vote, a spokesperson from the group said.

The referendum is facing numerous court challenges. A District Court hearing is set for Monday in a lawsuit by Capital One Public Funding over the constitutionality of the vote. Capital One says the referendum fails to provide a mechanism for Eagle's Landing to pay its share of about $11.75 million in municipal bonds Stockbridge owes if it takes half of Stockbridge's territory.

Stockbridge leaders also are expected to have a hearing Monday on their federal lawsuit alleging the referendum violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Georgia Municipal Association is a non-profit organization providing legislative advocacy, educational and consulting services to 521 member cities, the group says.