Stockbridge leaders seek community support in Eagle’s Landing fight

Stockbridge leaders are again asking residents of the Henry County city to help them fend off a cityhood movement by some of their wealthier neighbors in the Eagle’s Landing subdivisions.

At a news conference Tuesday, the leaders said the only thing keeping the tony golfing community — which wants to separate from Stockbridge — from becoming a city is Senate Bill 263. That legislation, which would incorporate Eagle's Landing, has been approved by the Senate, but is still making its way through the Georgia House. Its next move is a hearing scheduled in the House Governmental Affairs Committee at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

“We’re asking the citizens to begin a letter writing campaign to Gov. Deal asking him to veto any bills that come before him in reference to the proposal,” said Camilla Moore, Community Service Development Director for Stockbridge. “And then we’re asking you to began a letter writing campaign to every member of the House of Representatives expressing your opposition.”

It's the third time in as many weeks that Stockbridge leaders have reached out to the public for support, including a recent candlelight prayer vigil. Backers of Eagle's Landing's cityhood effort have successfully navigated the measure through state legislature, forcing Stockbridge to increasingly find seek ways to push back.

Two other bills that would give some of Stockbridge’s land to Eagle’s Landing have been approved by both houses and await Deal’s signature.

“We’re excited about it,” Vikki Consiglio, one of the architects of the Eagle’s Landing cityhood effort, said about its legislative progress. “We don’t have to scream and holler. We just follow the process.”

Eagle’s Landing residents, aided by supporters who live in nearby parts of unincorporated Henry County such as Consiglio, said creating a city would give them control over services they currently are not getting from Stockbridge, such as parks, community centers and public safety. They also think the new city’s average household income could help attract better retail and restaurants than currently offered in the area.

Stockbridge leaders argue that taking land from an established city to create another city is unprecedented and could lead to other communities trying to break away from their home towns, such as Buckhead leaving Atlanta. They also said they would have to impose a city property tax to make ends meet because Eagle’s Landing would be taking 50 percent of their tax base, including lucrative shopping centers on Ga. 138.

Consiglio said Stockbridge leaders are overestimating their losses from the areas that they would lose.

Looming large in the debate is the role of race. Stockbridge is a majority black city with an all black leadership, including the seating of its first black mayor in January. Henry County, which was majority white in 2000, also is changing demographically as the white population has dropped below 50 percent.

Eagle's Landing would also be majority black — 47 percent black, 39 percent white, 8 percent Asian and 6 percent Hispanic — but the voters of age would be more at parity with 44 percent black and 43 percent white.

Consiglio called the race debate a smoke screen.

“It has nothing to do with race,” she said. “Our board is not all white, our board is not all Republican. Our board is diverse.”

Stockbridge leaders plan to continue the fight until the end of the legislative session and beyond if necessary, they said. They plan to hold a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Stockbridge City Hall and another is set for March 15.

“The other side has said that you don’t care,” Stockbridge Community Services Director Moore told those who attended the Tuesday morning news conference. “It is our responsibility to show them by petitions and letter writing that this is not the case, that you want our city to stay intact.”