The city of Stockbridge is fighting the formation of Eagles Landing, which it says is unconstitutional.

Stockbridge seeking injunction, files lawsuit in Eagle’s Landing battle

Attorneys for Stockbridge filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking an injunction to stop November’s referendum on Eagle’s Landing cityhood and calling efforts to de-annex Stockbridge unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, which names the Henry County Commission and the county’s elections board as defendants, was not unexpected. Leaders of the Henry County city had said they would turn to the courts if legislation allowing voters to cast ballots on making Eagle’s Landing a city made it out of the Georgia General Assembly.

Two bills — one calling for the Eagle’s Landing cityhood referendum and another to de-annex Stockbridge — were approved by legislators and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal last week.

Attorney Bob Wilson of Wilson Morton & Downs on Thursday announced a lawsuit filed on behalf of Stockbridge to halt Eagle’s Landing cityhood effort. Photo: LEON STAFFORD/AJC
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“We will be asking the court to hold everything in place until the constitutionality of those two acts in question is in fact determined,” said Bob Wilson, a founding partner of Wilson Morton & Downs, at a Thursday press conference about the lawsuit at Stockbridge City Hall. “No case is perfect, and no case is a certainty. However we believe … that this is a solid case.”

Leaders of Stockbridge and residents of Eagle’s Landing — a well-heeled community in the southern part of Stockbridge — have been at odds since Eagle’s Landing cityhood was introduced in the General Assembly two years ago.

Eagle’s Landing supporters say they are seceding because Stockbridge has failed to provide basic needs, such as parks, senior facilities and road and infrastructure improvements. Stockbridge counters that some of the requested needs are provided by the county, not the city, and that the way to resolve the differences is through dialogue, not by breaking up the community.

Eagle’s Landing cityhood leaders hold a press conference last week after Gov. Nathan Deal signs bill allowing residents to vote in November on making their community a new town. LEON STAFFORD/AJC
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Lawyers for Stockbridge, which includes former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, said they hope to expedite court proceedings in the lawsuit given the short window before the November referendum, but could not guarantee a date. They said they also may file a civil rights lawsuit in federal court in the coming weeks.

The attorneys argued that the bills — which they call Act 548 and Act 559 — are unconstitutional because they ask for two different things under the same legislation, which is a violation of Georgia law. They also are in violation because matters in the acts are different from their titles suggests.

“No bill shall pass which refers to more than one subject or which contains matter different from what is said in the title,” said Bowers, adding that the law has been on the books since 1798. “Both of these bills violate both of those provisions.”

Map of Stockbridge and proposed city of Eagles Landing
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Vikki Consiglio, a leader in the Eagle’s Landing cityhood, said the language in the bills was vetted by lawyers, legislators and the governor’s office, so she is suprised that’s the basis of the lawsuit.

“I’m just questioning why all of a sudded this is unconstitutional,” she said.

Stockbridge Mayor Anthony Ford said the outcome of the battle between his city and Eagle’s Landing will be felt far beyond the borders of Henry County.

What happens to Stockbridge  will dictate what happens to the rest of the cities in the Atlanta metro area and the state of Georgia,” he said. “What happens here will help the stage for what happens to other cities around the nation.”

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